Make Space for the Guitar

Agile Teams Jun 7, 2021

When I worked at Nokia, there was a room on the top floor where team members would play Guitar Hero at lunch and when needing a bit of down time. This post has nothing to do with that, but it does have something to do with music ... and team work.

If you have played in a band with other musicians you may have come across the phenomena whereby uncontrolled and uninformed musicians gradually turn up their instruments in order to be heard. Eventually this leads to frustration, walking out of rehearsals and pulling plugs on each other.

I played the guitar - not particularly well I hasten to add - and the struggle with a keyboard player more used to playing on his own, with layers of sound. always left me fighting to hear myself. The frequency spectrum of the keyboard was broad and frequently swamped the rest of the band; the instruments were battling for space in the sound. Turning instruments up only made it worse - it became a volume race to 10, or 11 if you had the special custom amp.

If you have ever done a bit of audio mixing, you will no doubt be familiar with both the problem and the solution. The problem is that different instruments are battling for space in the audio spectrum. The solution is not to turn up an individual instrument to ensure it is heard, but to recognise the frequency of what needs to be heard and cut that from the instrument overpowering it. Every instrument needs space in the audio spectrum and needs to provide space for others.

This got me thinking about how we encourage all voices to be heard in teams. We ask people to speak up, make it clear that they can and should speak up, but do we provide the space for them to do so, or are their voices swamped by competing voices.

Yes, you may be like that keyboard and be able to independently produce a broad and rich variety of sound, but if you don't find the space for others in your team, the volume and frustration may go up and maybe someone will pull your plug.

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John Cumming

I am a Scrum Alliance CTC with BAE based in the UK. I hope to inspire people to develop themselves, their teams and their organisations through curiosity, collaboration and creativity.

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