Adaptability: the view from the mixing board

As a musician I understand what happens when the individual elements of a recording sound perfect, only to fall apart when played together.

It’s always a matter of balance: less bass, more guitar, keyboard strong but not predominant, drums present but not overbearing.

All musicians can be playing their hearts out but in the end, what makes it a coherent and successful piece of music is the mix.

Working in the change field, I’ve come to see workplaces in much the same way. The instruments are the various departments and the manager is in charge of getting them to create a third thing: a successful product.

But unlike a studio recording, you can’t simply find the perfect mix in isolation and lock it down. What you need to do is think of how your pieces come together in an organic way like a live performance. There has to be room for improvisation and every player must be ready to adapt to how an audience (your customers) are reacting.

But like any great band the individuals have to be ready to pick up the slack and help everyone around them so the performance, produce or service results in a “wow” from those on the receiving end.

Aside from the mix, we have to look at how each instrument, each department, is working. In music, it’s the graphic equalizer that makes sure  individual instruments sound good regardless of their placement in the mix.

And it’s the same with business. If the departments aren’t finely tuned, they can destroy your mix quickly. HR are one of those knobs, your Measurement System is another. You have to get the right balance between them so you are producing what your customers want.

And this is the same across all industries, just as it is across all genres of music. Each line of business or department needs its own EQ and the organization as a whole needs to have its master EQ – the goal of what it’s trying to achieve.

Finding the right mix for your organisation requires understanding your operations, goals customers and the marketplace that you work in. And it’s just not something you are going to get from an out of the box change program.

Lloyd Parry are ‘sound engineers’ for organisations going through adaptive change. We can tell immediately if its one instrument (department) that’s out of tune or if the balance between all the instruments (departments) is not working to create a good sound (product).

We are in a unique position to listen to the whole mix and, most importantly, teach organisations how to develop their own perfect mixes.