Friday, July 2, 2010

Rhythm and Reality

I was a bit "under the weather" recently. I was thinking about a lot of things. One of them was rhythm.

I teach drumming, private lessons, group lessons and workshops. Rhythm is a big deal for drummers. Its kind of what we do. So, I went looking for how rhythm is defined by "non-drummers." So I went to the web.

I went to and found this:
1. Movement or variation characterized by the regular recurrence or alternation of different quantities or conditions.
2. The patterned, recurring alternations of contrasting elements of sound or speech.
3. Music
a. The pattern of musical movement through time.
b. A specific kind of such a pattern, formed by a series of notes differing in duration and stress: a waltz rhythm.
c. A group of instruments supplying the rhythm in a band.
a. The pattern or flow of sound created by the arrangement of stressed and unstressed syllables in accentual verse or of long and short syllables in quantitative verse.
b. The similar but less formal sequence of sounds in prose.
c. A specific kind of metrical pattern or flow.

You get the idea, no?

Repeated patterns. Repeated actions. Repeated behaviors.

Have you noticed a repetition in projects or test efforts? Things keep coming back - almost like deja vu?

If things are working and "the process" is cracking-on, there are no problems. Right? No worries - you've got it down.

If things are, not-so-good - then what? Are your projects sounding a bit repetitious? Are they following the same model or are there slight variations in them? Is the "this could have been better" project from a year ago a role model of current projects or a warning for how future projects may go? Are things muddling along or are they getting worse?

If they are getting worse, why? Did the "lessons learned" sessions from the previous projects get acted on? Have your "process changes" been carried through and embraced by all particpants or by only some? If you're like me, you've worked in shops where that pretty well sums up the situation.

I remember one shop where I worked some time ago. They had beautiful documentation. Lots and lots of process. This happens - then this happens - then this happens. The Certified Project Managers pushed the Best Practices and Industry Standards to a fare-thee-well. They kept tight control over their progress meetings ("This is an update meeting, not a working meeting. If you need to discuss it, do so in a meeting other than this one.")

Projects were regularly train-wrecks.

All the participants made a great show of "following the process." Except they only went through the motions. It was an elaborate charade - they dutifully attended every meeting and carefully reported what was done and what needed to be done.

When the whole team really does what they were say they do, magical things can happen. One cynical... not nice person... can completely derail the project.

What I learned there, was to ignore the rules. When we projects focused on what needed to be done, and forced the "process" to that end, amazing things could occur. When the "process" drove the steps needed, the project failed.

There was rhythm in both cases. Its just one looked good on paper, the other looked messy - but it had a good beat and you could dance to it.

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