Courtesy of Martin Cathrae's photostream on Flickr

My recollection of Raku is that it is a Japanese process of firing clay in heated earth that results in a really beautiful, unique and iridescent sheen.  It’s also a fierce, dirty and dangerous process.

So I attended the Opening Night of the San Francisco Ballet last evening at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts and there was a work on the program recently commissioned by the ballet that premiered earlier this year, entitled Raku.  With choreography by Yuri Possokhov and score by Shinji Eshima, it was an evocative work based on the burning of the Temple of the Golden Pavilion by a love-crazed monk in the 1950’s.  Beautiful, gripping, unforgettable, kind of obscure.  The day after I had to research several articles just to understand what I’d witnessed onstage.

So what does that have to do with management?  You know we get better with practice, even when the setting could be better.  Or sucks.  We can learn so much then, and so much beauty can come from it, but it feels absolutely horrific while it is going on.  If we could choose, we would choose another way.

So rigor can create beauty, but at what cost?  And do we have rigor because of a lack of clarity in our management or training structure?  We can celebrate the beauty that comes when we are forced to be resourceful, but on the other side of the line, people get burned out and cast off when the context of their performance is unclear or harsh.  I don’t think it justifies poor management skills.

Attracting and retaining new talent, particularly Millennials, forces a rethinking of this paradigm.  We lose money and talent when our training and on-boarding practices are ineffective or backward.  We pay more for less. We pay more when our environment or context are unattractive.  It is a delicate balance to get the beautiful product, evoke the rigor and not burn out the employer or the employee.

Gilbert’s Grid demonstrates the interaction between environment or context and performance and makes the case that environmental factors exert more of an influence than job skill.  When there can be mutually understood objectives and a clear channel of communication, new talent flourishes.

Otherwise, this experience can resemble a fascinating piece of art with an incomprehensible story line and a vague tragic ending.  We can do better.

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