The Value of Your Work has Echoes

WRITTEN BY Dave Prior

Value of Your Work

I work with some really smart people. On a regular basis, they create and do things that challenge and inspire me.

This morning I got up and read this post by Dave Nicolette. In it, Dave shares his thoughts on the relationship between Quality, Craft, and Value. He uses the metaphor of the impact a jazz solo has to explain the relationship between these things. 

Because I have consumed an irresponsible amount of caffeine this morning—and because I love trying to connect music, art, and what we build…

I’m Having All The Thoughts and They Must be Set Free

Dave lists a number of “stakeholders” who are impacted by the value of a jazz solo. In exploring this, he extends the definition of stakeholder to include a musician in the audience who heard the solo, takes what they learn back to their practice room, and builds on it. 

In December of 1964, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones got together and recorded the album A Love Supreme. It is widely recognized as one of the greatest albums ever recorded. 

In 2016, John Scheinfeld released a documentary on John Coltrane called Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. In the film, Carlos Santana talks about the impact that A Love Supreme has had on him and how whenever he enters a hotel room, the first two things he does are put on A Love Supreme and then burn some incense in order to get the energy right in the room.

So, on the nights Santana is in the hotel room because he has a gig, the album impacts him, and thereby impacts everyone in his audience. Each of those people in turn impact everyone they come in contact with the next day. 

When Coltrane spent days and nights locked in his studio, ignoring his wife, 4 year old daughter, and new born son, writing the music that would be recorded for A Love Supreme, the value of the work he did there alone in the room extends to stakeholders who are going to see Carlos Santana in concert all those years later. 

“Value can have a very long tail. Our work has echoes—even the work we do when we are alone in a room with no one watching.”

On July 4, 1976, The Sex Pistols played a show in Manchester. The show is sometimes referred to as “the gig that changed the world.” There were a lot of people in the audience at that show. Well, actually, not a lot of people. Certainly not the number of people you’d find at a Taylor Swift show. But in that audience were people who would go on to form The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall, Simply Red, and The Smiths. While punk didn’t actually begin that night in Manchester, that show is marked as one of the fixed points that gave birth to punk rock and what came after.  So if you’ve ever listened to Joy Division, The Smiths, Peter Shelley, or any of the bands that evolved from those bands, you are a stakeholder of that show in Manchester.

The Value of Your Work has Echoes

In 1974, Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michels, who were part of an art collective called Ant Farm, buried 10 beat up old Cadillacs in the ground in Texas. The Cadillacs were buried in chronological order based on year of creation in order to showcase the tail fins. (The tail fin changed each year and you needed a new car each year to keep in style.) The exhibit was a social comment on “the mythical Texas oilman who dumps his Cadillac when the ashtray gets full.” 

In 1948, Franklin Quick Hershey was working as the chief of the GM Special Car Design Studio. Hershey decided to take an idea he saw in an early production model of a P-38 and include it in the design of the 1948 Cadillac. This is where the automobile tailfin came from.  

In 1980, Bruce Springsteen released The River, which included a large picture of Cadillac Ranch and a song by the same name. 

In 1985, James Brown included Cadillac Ranch in his video for “Living in America”

In 2006, Pixar released Cars, which features Cadillac Ranch. 

In 2008, Cage the Elephant included Cadillac Ranch in their video for “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”

The Value of Our Work Has Echoes

Quality extends well beyond passing QA. The work we do impacts the people who use it. Those people impact others around them. Every interaction we have with others does the same.

As Dave Nicolette says, Value, Quality, and Craft are all deeply intertwined. You cannot have one without the other. 

If you are a PM, you are not excluded from this. Every interaction you have with someone in your organization impacts value, quality, and craft. 

Value can have a very long tail. Our work has echoes. Franklin Quick Hershey never heard of Speed McQueen. John Coltrane never met the 20-year-old attending the Carlos Santana show just so they could hear him sing “Smooth.” Yet, the connection and impact are still there.

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