The Beatles knew how to create a BHAG.
While watching the Beatles documentary “Get Back,” by Peter Jackson (I’ve finished two of the three parts so no spoilers please), I quickly made connections to the running of a business. Imagine your company has just announced you’re producing a major live event (whatever type of live event aligns with your business). Everyone agrees it’s a great idea for all the right reasons. Then they announce that you have three weeks to deliver it. Oh, crap.
That is essentially what the Beatles did in visioning their album, “Let It Be.” Three weeks to create all the content (in the Beatles’ case, write 12-16 new songs). The same three weeks to rehearse those new songs and record them. The same three weeks to stage a live concert for television and to launch the new album, all while filming the entire process for a documentary. Talk about BHAG! Putting aside the insanity of this task, what does this look like as a business case study? I’m sure someone will turn this into a B-school project (opus?), but I’ll be brief and focus on a few things that jumped out at me while watching…
Are there clearly defined and agreed upon goals? The rough vision for this project included several things:
- Create an album without studio manipulation and overdubs
- Perform and record the album live
- Film the entire process for a television documentary (scope creep anyone?)
But even these goals didn’t have complete buy-in from all stakeholders (i.e., the four lads from Liverpool). John, Paul, George and Ringo wanted to create an album that could be performed live without studio gimmicks while staying phonically true to the recording. In other words, to Get Back to their live performance roots. Yet so much hadn’t been planned or even discussed. As the process began, there were no details about studio location or recording equipment, live venue or audience, and other major details. Was it Benjamin Franklin who said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”?
Lesson: Someone needed to document the goals, make sure everyone was in agreement, and map out requirements for each goal. Which leads me to item #2.
Did they have the right personnel and skillsets? The ability of this group to create high quality products was proven. In business terms, they had the content creation and quality assurance processes finely tuned.
However, this new project, as envisioned, went far beyond the usual. This was a complicated, multi-faceted project, and The Beatles, along with their managing team, lacked project requirements gathering skills, an adept project manager, and so much more. In the absence of someone filling these roles (which were previously handled by Brian Epstein, who had died two year earlier), the responsibilities fell to the band, each member having differing abilities and desires to take on these burdens. This led to heightened aggravation, stress and resentment.
Lesson: Clearly define roles and responsibilities and assign proficient individuals accordingly. Should the creative individual(s) producing all the content for your event also be charged with the planning and logistics responsibilities? Probably not, unless they have that skillset and the time to properly execute.
Time management, what time management? The self-imposed deadline was a stress accelerator and led to missed deadlines. Worse, it also prompted the group to severely cut back their vision for the finished products and even caused them to jettison major deliverables altogether. The stress also, arguably, contributed to the band’s demise, or in business terms, failure of the business.
Lesson: If at all possible, plan for a realistic amount of time to achieve goals. Have regular check points with stake holders. If necessary, scale back expectations for the finished project.
These are just a few of the thoughts that came to mind as I watched Peter Jackson’s version of the Let It Be sessions. It is clear that The Beatles as artists were still at their peak. The Beatles as a business lacked many of the skills required to be successful and needed help.
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