As I have blogged (I wonder if this is really a word?) before, I have been attending the NC PMI Committee meetings quite often for the past couple of months. Recently I have attended a session by Mr. Branford Marsalis. Mr. Marsalis is a world renowned Saxophonist. When I first saw this event, I was wondering what does a musician has go to do with Project Management. As you all know, many of us live like ‘Frogs in a well’ (It’s an Indian saying). I was curious and enrolled to this session.
I decided to understand the background a little bit to appreciate the session a little more. What I discovered is that Mr. Marsalis, along with his musician friend Harry Connick Jr., has started a venture to build homes for musicians in the upper 9th ward of New Orleans, after the hurricane Katrina disaster. This noble cause has been named the ‘Musicians Village‘. Despite the name, people other than musicians also applied for the homes. Mr. Marsalis and Mr. Connick Jr. worked with Habitat for Humanity International on this cause.
I have been to New Orleans during my Christmas vacation and have heard about this venture during one of my guided tours. The name that I recognized and associated was that of Mr. Connick Jr.. However after much reading I realized that it was a joint effort by both of these gentle hearted musician, with their passion to give back to their home town.This is recognized as one of many successful initiatives in NOLA, post Katrina. The people and culture of New Orleans is very unique. So, is the red tape and bureaucracy, is what I heard many a times during my tour and later.
The session itself was quite different from the ones I have attended before. Mr. Marsalis waked in, without any gadgets and power point slides / handouts. He just sat there and narrated the story about the origin of the idea and the journey. Participants were really very interested and touched by the whole story as it was about one of the biggest disasters of recent times. Participants asked questions along the way. The situation and the prevailing conditions reminded me of my home land. Another lady from Brazil was able to relate to the story and life in NOLA. She felt that place was like home away from home. I think it is a ‘Third World’ thing. I am sure there will be some of my fellow country men who may not like me call India a ‘Third World’ country.
I will highlight some interesting facts and quotes from the session I have noted.
- Musicians in NOLA work for cash and record all their transaction in their ‘Gig Books’. They do not have Pay Slips and hence had trouble with getting loans from banks etc. to build their homes
- Musicians’ village was aimed at building homes for musicians as well as any other citizens who applies
- Beneficiaries will contribute 300 hours of sweat equity and will pay about $550 per month, one the home is complete
- HHI will also teach the owners all the maintenance techniques
- HHI typically has two standard building plans, however, they have made an exception and designed a third model to overcome a future flood situation
- “Stop blaming and get the job done”
- “Identify the Right Thing To Do and get it done”
- “Identify the Right People” – applied the same logic that he used to make music with – Right Team for the job
- I do not work with lousy people and I can tell someone is lousy after I work for a few hours
- Ignore the criticism and continue doing what you are doing, if you believe it is the right thing to do
- Make the best use of the resources available to you to get attention and support – Media and Press in this case to overcome bribery and Red Tape
Overall, it was a unique and touching experience. I think I am getting good food for thought along with good food during these sessions. I hope to continue doing this and learn along the way.
Mr. Ed Cohen is Chief Learning Officer at the company I work for. I met him a couple of times during some of my corporate training sessions. He is a very passionate individual with abundant knowledge and experience helping organisations grow leaders with in. He is the author of a book titled “Leadership Without Borders“. He has posted a question, “What are three “must do’s” for a leader during a corporate crisis?” in Linked In. I happen to read and respond to this question. I also came across some interesting responses from professionals across various organisations with in his network. The people who responded range from Management Trainees to CEOs.
Here’s my response:
1. Communication: This is the most important thing, I think, all the leaders in the organization that is faced with a crisis should do. Over communication will be better than under communication in such a situation. I am sure there would be rumors (specifically in cases like Satyam). The only way to keep these under check is to communicate to your employees, investors and customers. Conduct frequent meetings; send out emails / newsletters on a frequent basis.
2. Transparency: Maintain as much transparency as you can. I am sure there will be decisions that would / should be made at the highest level that you may not want everyone in the organization to know. But, ensure that the things that fall out of this category are communicated. Make sure that there are as little surprises as possible to your employees and investors. If your employees and investors are getting the news first from a third party, before he gets it from you, he/she will lose trust in you and your leadership.
3. Care for your Employees: Your employees are your strength. Be it IT Services sector or any other industry, success almost always boils down to having good people on the team. You know your team has delivered during the good times. Count on them during the crisis as well. Make sure how much you appreciate their work then and their work now. Remember, what goes around comes around. The more you care for your employees, the more they care and strive to get the organization out of the crisis. If the employees are working in a ‘Business As Usual’ mode, your customers will not feel the heat and would stand by you and even help you out.
Your feedback is welcome. I recommend you read through the responses from various individuals for the question. I am sure you might find some of those very useful and interesting too.