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executing Retrospectively..

by | Jan 2, 2021 | execute, Retrospective, Return To Forever

I wonder what the term “20/20 Hindsight” will mean now… or 20/20 vision for that matter.  Now that it is literally in the rearview mirror, Retrospectives are popping up all over the web.  The most important “this”, how we learned “that”, which strategy was … whatever.  While many of those are worth reflecting on, I think that for the 2nd day of this New Year, what matters most is what did you execute during the year past… and how do we determine what worked for us and our teams?  And what remains for us to be ready for this New Year that will make it… 

What?  The best way to complete a Retrospective is to start with – what did you expect?  If you anticipated the last 12 months, please go immediately to Vegas.  But seriously – how much of a surprise was it?  Remember the number one job of a leader is to make things predictable… and delegate as much of that execution as you can… because YOUR unique job is to handle the unexpected.  And at least for the first part of March/April, you were probably on overdrive…

… but I suspect many of the things that didn’t go well you could have actually predicted.  One of the Retrospectives I ran across talked about things they had learned from Covid.  Meetings need to be well-run, with notes taken and recorded for members who were not able to join.  Regular check-ins weekly with each direct reports, not just on tasking, but how they are doing.  Clear goals and measures that are tracked publicly for all to contribute to.  Rotating leadership through the team so you get a break, new voices are heard, and they experience what leading is really like.  Allow people to work when they can and not have to show up at a specific time or place always. Make allowances for the family demands that everyone is also balancing with kids, parents, etc… 

…hopefully, by now you are starting to get the idea – these are all things that help teams …. ALWAYS.  Not JUST in a crisis… but for sustained execution at a high level. Are there additional things that you added to your Management Hygiene this year?  In my own Retrospective, it was mostly not executing on things I knew, also a lifelong partner that can be called “procrastination”.  I had a list of many things on my whiteboard that I never had the “time” for… now even that excuse was removed and I was faced with just getting it done… or not and living with the consequences which now were much more dire…

Lenny White is another New York area youth who was in the right place at the right time.  Raised in Queens, his father took him to jazz shows where he caught the bug to play drums, and that led to him chauffeuring him to gigs before he could get there on his own 😉 His first regular gig at 15 was with jazz saxophonist Jackie Mclean who recommended him to Miles Davis as a new drummer to use on a new jazz-fusion record  he was just starting – Bitches Brew in 1969 – just as Lenny turned 20. 

And if you know Miles, he has found some of the best young drummers through the years, and Lenny was no different.  He is known now as one of the founding members of the jazz-fusion movements and joined Return To Forever in 1972.  He wrote this cut, and the video I have selected shows them live… and if you don’t know the piece, here it is from the albumexecuted note for note the same.  I found another clip from 2008, and “accidentally” started the 2 videos at the same time… exactly the same pitch, pace, most of the notes the same.  He now teaches Jazz at NYU, and sadly lately doesn’t wear his trademark hat… 

… execution in jazz is actually a lot like leadership.  There needs to be good structure, design, and support for the basics – typically held down and communicated by the drummer who “keeps the beat”.  Then, each of the players take their turn improvising on what they are hearing now, while preserving the execution of the overall song.  Each takes a “ride” as they call it, and then returns back to their basic role.  When you have players that are amazing on their own parts, then together it is even more amazing… 

My 2020 hindsight: the critical word I set out at the beginning of the year and set the theme – Now.  Presented with opportunities, and with time, I didn’t wait – like a jazz musician, I stepped into my “ride” and took it.  Before March even, with trips that I said: “if not now…”.  We know now if I hadn’t then… and I have many other examples.  My encouragement to you is to reflect on the basics of execution:  your meetings, your talent, your goals, your planning…  that sounds so funny coming from me…

…but honestly, I ended the year in exactly that role.  My job morphed back into something I can do – get a team executing together, moving towards goals, and delivering…. Things even they didn’t know they could do – or me honestly.  But, I knew with the right rhythm, the right cadence, the right support, we could “drum” our way into the New Year successfully. I became the drummer – something I always wanted to be…  Now, exhausted, sure, but with the knowing smile that it was actually a great gig.  It comes down to people, communication, and execution… and not The Sorceress…

 

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