J. Miller and Company Blog

March 17, 2009

The Last Waltz – what do you play?

Over the weekend I watched The Last Waltz, the Martin Sorcese documentary on the last concert given by The Band, a fixture in music during the late 60s into the mid 70s.  The Band worked with Bob Dylan during a brief period in Woodstock, NY where they produced Music from Big Pink as well as The Basement Tapes – still great pieces of music

I loved the music, enjoyed watching the guest artists (Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Dylan of course) but what struck me most about this performance was the incredible cr0ss-pollitantion of most (all but one of the 5) of the musicians:

The organ player, a difficult instrument to be sure, played the sax; one of the lead singers and guitar players also played the fiddle and the piano, the drummer played the piano, the cello and sang, the piano player worked miracles on the drums – another difficult instrument.  Each one played their secondary instruments nearly as well as they played their primary.  And 2 of the 4 sang at the same time they played.

In other words, they were each cross-trained!  They could have taken the entire show on the road (oh yes, that’s what they did for a living) and if one were sick, another would replace that instrument and even those vocals.  Perhaps the precise sound wouldn’t be the same but the outcome would be similar enough to be equally effective.

This raises the big question:  how are you doing in cross-training your people?  Even more important, how cross trained are you?  What instruments, to maintain the metaphor, can you play when things get tough?

Can you do AP, process payroll, reconcile the bank statement, calculate cost to complete, develop a good cash flow, hire and fire effectively, train the least skilled of your employees to do their job well?

How many instruments do you play?

If I were you I’d print out all the job descriptions from the primary players in the company and highlight those areas in which you’re fully capable as well as those in which your skills fall far short of ‘fully capable’.  Then you’ll know what you need to learn, they you’ll know where the company is vulnerable in terms of its skill set.

Keep practicing!

Management Theory