Continuing the story of my violin-playing daughter, she is now practicing diligently for an upcoming competition in Italy. She’s working on the repertoire required, two short Caprices by Paganini and Wieniawski for the initial round, and then for the final round (assuming she gets that far) a lovely piece by Igor Stravinsky, Suite Italienne (Here’s a link to the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman playing the first movement).
So the question of the day is: How long should someone practice to gain mastery on a complicated piece of music?
We posed the question of how long to practice to her violin teacher, Hu Kun (his story is fascinating by the way) who was taught directly by the great virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin for over 15 years. His reply was different from what I expected.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect,” he replied. “Perfect practice makes perfect. When I was young I only practiced about 2 hours a day when many of my colleagues in music school would spend 5-6 hours practicing. Yet I won all the competitions. It’s not how long you practice, it’s how you practice. You need a good method that delivers results and too often people who practice long hours using a poor method do themselves more harm than good!”
Sage advice from someone who has been there, and it got me rethinking about how much time executives spend at work and whether or not they are really being effective, or just making things worse?
Here is one of my favorite stories about how we work:
One day Little Joey came home from school and asked his mother why Dad was always working late and why he had to bring work home as well. Mommy replied that daddy was very busy and couldn’t get all his work done at the office so he had to work in the evenings as well.
Little Joey thought for a moment: “Then why don’t they put Dad in the slow group?”
I see too many executives spending long hours and to be honest, not accomplishing as much as they would like. And I’ve been to marathon meetings that waste everyone’s time and definitely create more bad feelings than brilliant business solutions. We are working long hours but are we using the best methods?
And as I’ve said many times before, business processes (how we work) are a key contributor to corporate culture and poor processes help create a culture of frustration and cynicism.
When was the last time your management team took time out to evaluate the way they work? Are they using the best business processes? Too often when someone is failing at work we blame the person when we should be helping improve the processes they are using. W. Edwards Demming was very astute when he said: Don’t blame the people, fix the processes.
My daughter’s violin teacher is constantly showing her better fingering and other methods that he learned on how to short-cut practicing time and make that time more effective.
Are you working on improving your methods, or just working longer and harder?
Tight Lines . . .