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Persistent engagement

by | Dec 7, 2020 | engage, Nat King Cole, Persistent

Now that you know the Team, there are still a few stories that are worth spinning around my tour through Ops with the NeXT team.  Today’s starts with the fact that our NeXT PC’s were required to have 32 Gig of memory – when 4 was normal and thus, “our” PC’s were full of very expensive and very marketable, components… that were leaving at an alarming rate.  Yes, theft – straight up – not something you would think that an IT person would have to deal with…  

I had already thought about the topic for this week being Persistence… and then I realized it will start on Dec 7th – a day that will already have your attention. As we see over and over, once we set our mind to it, we have a way of galvanizing our attention and resources to make engaging and pulling together easier. The key is setting that intention, in flowery or other speech…as is the Persistence to keep focused on the outcome until it is achieved. It is critically important to teams and leaders no matter where you are.  In our case, it felt as though “our” computers were being attacked and stolen from, and our users/programmers being taken advantage of, and that pissed us off…

Nate King Cole was born in 1919 in Montgomery, Alabama.  If you know your history, being black in Alabama was not exactly easy for anyone, but particularly for a musical prodigy.  Luckily his family moved to Chicago when he was 4, which coincided with his first performance – on the church organ – Yes, We Have No Bananas!  His mom was the church organist in his father’s Baptist church, so that helped, and they saw his promise early.  He got into lessons on piano at 12 in jazz, classical, and even ragtime piano. How he made it from that background to changing music, particularly Christmas music, leads to thinking about Persistence this week.

What made us think this was important?  We accepted an intention:  Make the NeXT environment the best it could be.  And we knew the Persistence of sticking with it, even when random barriers show up, would pull us together. The people who used and programmed NeXT computers were taking a risk – everyone else thought it was silly, and that it would eventually not work. This was the latest – “…see, they are too expensive” chorus.  They were hazed by others… who were using Windows 3.1 😉 Each of us in our own way had heard that before – that we would not be successful, that we were not in the “in” club, that we… well you get it.  Persistence is what comes from character being built, realizing when you have a chance, you will engage and do something different… not simply sit by.

We had a couple of conversations about what we could do, and one of the team came up with a way of recording the configuration of each machine that was “ours” every night.  Think of it as an inventory, and then we could check against last night’s, and “see” where the memory was “different” and flag it.  It had the advantage that we could actually show up with memory before users even needed it, and continued the reputation of excellent service the NeXT Team had.  And we found that the cluster of thefts was in one particular building, so we increased our “surveillance” there.

One evening, one of the contractors not even on our team noticed something out of the ordinary in the “particular building” under “surveillance”, and literally chased a person down and tackled him in the stairwell.  It was dangerous… but entirely consistent with the team ethos.  The person tackled was a PC support contractor that had been regularly removing the memory and selling it on the black market… and with that breakthrough, our thefts ended… 

… but not our Persistence.  For today, as you think about the Persistence of both our country after being attacked and perhaps your own team, how do you want to start setting an intention for engaging in what comes next?  Many of you may not know that Nate Cole Persistence actually made him a fantastic jazz and classical pianist – long before he started singing.  To start our journey on Persistence, think about how a small black boy spent hours preparing and learning how to master his instrument.  It is a story that is appropriately presaged by… Prelude… In C# Minor.

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