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managing Persistence….

by | Dec 8, 2020 | manage, Nat King Cole, Persistent

If you talk to any IT person, other than those on the Network team, you will find that pretty much everyone hates the Network team.  They are never wrong, never changed anything, and in our case, a small mistake could wipe out whole swaths of perfectly fine systems.  To this day, I always marvel that the huge internet outages you hear about … are mostly caused by Network issues.  Sadly, with any outage they pointed first at NeXT, so we got very good at actually proving 1) it wasn’t us, and 2) where it likely was.  On today’s crisis, it was pointing out the exact router that had changed… overnight… 

… and of course, the Network team said “We made no changes”.  Really?? We had of course figured out that our nightly script could not only harvest information about NeXT computers – but all the OTHER pieces that were in our critical path.  Being constantly blamed helped us come together in ways that I learned from.  In this case, we gently mentioned a specific router on a specific floor that might have changed.  “Nope, didn’t touch it”.  And… in 5 minutes, about the time it took to change it back, mysteriously we were up and running again… 

Nat dropped out of high school at 15, and joined his brother Eddie, a bassist, and they landed a role in a touring show, “Shuffle Along” that took him across the country.  He eventually married a member of the cast, Nadine Robinson, and they settled down in Los Angeles when the tour ended there.  He started playing pick up sessions at local bars.  A manager of one of the clubs encouraged him to form a band, and soon they needed a name – they chose one, stolen from the kid’s nursery rhyme, the King Cole Swingsters.  They were noticed for a local radio station, and this is a great early recording of The Kings Court… features this opening line: “Old King Cole is a good ol’ soul, a good old soul is he, if you get with him, he’ll stomp off the rhythm, as Oscar and Johnny makes three!”

If that manager hadn’t encouraged him, Nat would have been another piano player in a bar in LA…maybe.  I suspect the Persistence that grew in him through his youth would have eventually powered him, but for today, he was now on the launching pad.  Today’s is the first recording ever of him and his band, still known as The King Cole Trio.  Here is the later version at Capitol – on December 15, 1943.  Notice how much more out front the vocal is.  Clearly the engineer/producer there knew that the enduring talent was not the piano keys, or the band, but the velvety voice we would all soon know to be Persistent throughout the ’40s and ’50s. 

For us, the power of our ability to troubleshoot not just our work, but everyone’s, became somewhat of a legend.  No one would give us credit, but our people started being involved in bigger and more important questions, and slowly the team started to grow and expand beyond just the NeXT “toys” into the actual servers that were running Fannie Mae’s mission-critical business.  I benefited as well taking over the engineering for all of those systems, including the group that had caused that outage I wrote about last week…. 

… And I very quickly turned that team towards getting that flaky product OUT of our environment.  Management Persistence is all about having a perspective that matters… and focusing ruthlessly on it.  I am never complimented for my focus – other than, I can actually get teams to do it.  And there is that sinking feeling you get when you realize – actually, NO one actually knows what to do, and you have to make the best decision you can with limited knowledge and understanding. Followed by small voices suggesting what they see, and you slowly helping them step up… 

What is your Persistent vision – and are you managing your team to head in that direction with each action?  It is not something you can do occasionally – it requires a focus on everything around you… and when you can do it well, you and the team will be able to deliver amazing things.  And, your team will grow – as people love to be a part of something that is going somewhere, and you will be able to Persistently add the best people to your team.  When they join, surprisingly your vision gets “better” – if you step back and ask them more often what they see, and slowly fade back as they drive forward towards what is really needed. 

Nat would realize soon the power of his voice, and start to use it more and more. This the first time you would hear it… recorded in 1940 – and therefore Persistent 😉  Sweet Lorraine.  

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