Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jazz vs. Symphony: Why Micromanaging Digital Work FAILS.



In this third of an 8 part series, Brad Szollose and Rob Hirschfeld invite you to share in our discussion about failures, fights and frightening transformations going on around us as digital work changes workplace deliverables, planning and culture.


First, Has Work Changed?

Now that we've introduced music as a functional analogy for a stable 21st century leadership model and defined digital work, we're ready to expose how work actually gets done in the information age

Again, has work really changed? Yes. Traditionally there was a distinct difference between organized production and service-based/creative work such as advertising, accounting or medicine. Solve a problem by looking for clues and coming up with creative solutions to solve it.

Jazz Hands By RevolvingRevolver on DeviantArt
http://revolvingrevolver.deviantart.com/
Digital work on the other hand, and more importantly - digital workers, live in a strange limbo of doing creative work but needing business structures and management models that were developed during the industrial age.

In today's multi-generational workforce, what appears to be a generational divide has transformed into a non-age-specific cultural rift. As Brad and Rob compared notes, we came to believe that what is really happening is a learned difference in the approach to work and work culture.


There is learned difference in the approach to work and work culture that's more obvious in, but not limited to, digital natives. In most companies, the executives are traditionalists, (Baby Boomers or hand-selected by Boomers)."

While previous generations have been trained to follow hierarchy, the new culture values performance, flexibility and teamwork with a less top-down control oriented outlook.


It’s like a symphonic conductor who is used to picking the chair order and directing the tempo is handing out sheet music to a Jazz ensemble. So how is the traditional manager going to deliver a stellar performance when his performers are Jazz trained?

In traditional concert orchestra, each musician has to go to college, train hard, earn a shot to get into the orchestra, and overtime, work very hard to earn the First Chair position (think earning the corner office). Once in that position, they stay there until death or retirement. Anyone who deviates, is fired. Improv is only allowed during certain songs, by a select few. It’s the workplace equivalent to climbing the corporate ladder.

Most digital workers think they
belong to a Jazz ensemble.  


It’s a mistake to believe less organized means less skilled. Workers in the Jazz model are also talented and trained professionals. If you look at the careers of Thelonius Monk, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, they all had formal training, many started as children. The same is true for digital workers: many started build job skills as children and then honed their teamwork playing video games.

But can a loosely organized group consistently deliver results? Yes. In fact, they deliver better results!

When a Jazz Improv group plays, they have a rough composition to start with. Each member is given time for a solo. To the uninitiated there appears to be no leaders in this milieu of talent, but the leader is there. They just refuse to control the performance; instead, they trust that each member will bring their "A Game" and perform at 100% of their capacity.

In business, this is scary. Don’t we need someone to check each person's work? People are just messing around right? I mean, is this actual work? Who is in charge?

In business environments that operate more like Jazz, studies have proven that there is a 32% increase in productivity from traditional command and control environments driven by hierarchy.

Age, experience and position are NOT the criteria for the Digital Worker. Output is.  And output is different for each product. Management's role in this model is to get out of the way and let the musicians create. Instead of conforming to a single style and method, the people producing in the model each bring something unique and also experience a high degree of ownership.

This is a powerful type of workplace diversity: by allowing different ways of problem solving to co-exist, we also make the workplace more inclusive and collaborative.

Sound too good to be true? 

Click here to see How Google is Reinventing The Workplace. 


In our next post we’ll discuss trust as the critical ingredient for Jazz performance.
Thank you for following along.


Our point of view: About the authors

Rob Hirschfeld and Brad Szollose are both proud technology geeks, but they’re geeks from different generations who enjoy each others perspective on this brave new world.

Rob is a first-generation Digital Native. He grew up in Baltimore reprogramming anything with a keyboard—from a Casio VL-Tone and beyond. In 2000, he learned about server virtualization and never looked back.

As founder and community lead of the OpenCrowbar project, Rob is the CEO of RackN, which provides support, consulting and commercial extensions to the community project. 

Rob is also a board member for the OpenStack Foundation. A position he was elected to fill in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and the chair of DefCore committee.


Brad is a Cusp Baby Boomer who grew up watching the original Star Trek series, secretly wishing he would be commanding a Constitution Class Starship in the not-too-distant future.

Since that would take a while, Brad became a technology-driven creative director who cofounded one of the very first Internet agencies during the dot-com boom. As a Web pioneer, Brad was forced to invent a new management model that engaged the first wave of Digital Workers.

Today, Brad helps organizations like Dell and MasterCard close the digital divide by understanding it as a cultural divide created by new tech-savvy workers ... and customers.

Beyond the fun of understanding each other better, we are collaborating on this 8 part blog series for different reasons.

  • Brad is fostering liquid leaders who have the vision to span cultures and to close the gap between cultures.


  • Rob is building communities with the vision to use cloud products that fit the Digital Native culture.