Bagpipes and Business

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When not focused on my work with The Mpower Group, I spend some of my time learning and playing the bagpipes When I share this with people, they usually have many questions about the pipes.  But, I think the similarities between playing the bagpipes and working with businesses are very interesting.

Bagpipes, like business, are very organic.  The pipes are made of wood, the reeds are made of wood and the bag is often animal hide of one sort or another.  Because of this, the environment in which the bagpipes are used has direct impact on them when it is hot, the wood expands and the pipes tend to be sharper, when it’s cold and wet your breath condenses in the bag which can eventually foul-up the reeds.  A good piper takes the environment into account when adjusting his pipes.  Similarly, an astute manager takes into account the environment in which they operate to make adjustments to their plans to most effectively deliver business results.

As with business, the forces or drivers of the bagpipes are not always apparent – the seemingly obvious forces are often red herrings as to the true business drivers.  With the bagpipes, when most people try them for the first time, they try to blow as hard as they can to get them to play – believing the air pressure from their lungs will drive the pipes.  The real force, though, is the arm – while the air from one’s mouth is important, to get the pipes going and playing well, it’s the pressure the piper creates by squeezing the bag with his arm which actually drives the pipes.  By knowing the right cause a person can begin to get the pipes to sound good, as within business knowing the true cause of an issue, leads one to the correct solution for addressing it.

Like many tools within business, bagpipes can be constrained – there are only nine different notes – however, in the hands of a skilled and creative player, these nine notes can be used to create a variety of music and have been formed into thousands of tunes.  No different than taking a business tool, such as the Agile system development method and applying it to solve and address a business performance issue.

What avocations do you have?  How do those relate to what you are trying to accomplish?

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Jim Livingston

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  1. Pingback: A Fond Farewell to a Colleague and Friend | News You Can Use

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