Excellence

 

Friday, April 13, 2018

ALERT, ALERT, ALERT – Proceed with caution, proud Mom moment on the horizon…

With that disclaimer, for those who are still reading, I’m excited to report that my daughter, Emma (10), performed this week at the Kennedy Center – yes, that Kennedy Center. Emma is part of the Children’s Chorus of Washington, a group that was invited to perform with the Albany Symphony as part of the SHIFT Festival; According to the Kennedy Center website: “SHIFT celebrates the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of orchestras and chamber orchestras by creating an immersive festival experience in the nation’s capital. The week-long festival is composed of mini-residencies, with each participating orchestra presenting education events, symposia, and community events in venues around Washington, D.C., along with full-orchestra performances in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.”

The Albany Symphony chose to focus on “bodies of water” for its performance on Wednesday. Emma’s chorus, therefore, sang about the Erie Canal. A D.C.-based chorus singing with the Albany Symphony about the Erie Canal. Logical. Also, who knew there were that many songs about the great New York canal? I do remember one I learned in music class when I was about Emma’s age — something about a mule named Sal pulling 15 miles on the Erie Canal. But I seriously digress. The performance itself was excellent and the Albany Symphony conductor clearly enjoyed working with the children’s choruses (two others from the D.C.-area also performed).

 

As we sat there watching Emma from afar and listening to the beautiful music about a major feat of engineering in the U.S., I thought about how much went into the performance. Endless rehearsals – individually and in groups – and a lifetime of musicality from each of the professional musicians and conductors to enable them to convey to the youth choruses the importance of precision, focus and the overall excellence necessary to perform on that stage.

 

In recent times, I feel like the idea of excellence has been diminished. Maybe, culturally, it seems a bit “braggadocios” to aspire to excellence or to actually achieve it, even in a fleeting sense. Achieving excellence (in anything, really) is usually very challenging and often requires sacrifices – of time, energy, sleep (ha!), etc. Such aspiration can also put us in conflict with people who are willing to accept an outcome that is less than excellent – a “B” grade rather than an “A+.” Admittedly, the effort and sacrifice required for excellence can be viewed as “compulsive” or “selfish” or having “tunnel-vision,” and that might be why our culture seems to have downplayed it. On the other hand, where would we be as electric, gas and water utilities without the goal of excellence? Would less than 99.999% reliability be okay? Would our society get used to the lights flickering just like we accept our cell phone service dropping at seemingly inexplicable times? I doubt it.

In fact, utility excellence is so taken for granted and the lack of excellence so rare that it can make it difficult to advocate for the policies we need. We actually have trouble finding examples of where federal spectrum policies have caused reliability or resiliency issues. Not because they couldn’t or haven’t, but because utilities are so focused on meeting the goal of 99.999% reliability that they put in contingencies and redundancies that gloss over the problems actually caused by inappropriate federal policy. We need spectrum policy that ensures interference-free spectrum access/use by utilities – if we had this, we wouldn’t need the level of redundancy and contingency we have to put in now. Such measures create unnecessary inefficiency and costs that our customers and the underlying economy must bear.

Having said all of this, the bottom line is that utilities must continue to focus on excellence even when they are the victims of their own success. Our job now is to get the federal government to seek such excellence as well…excellence in analysis and in awareness of what their brethren are doing in related departments as well as in understanding the true impacts their decisions have on stakeholders…maybe sleep isn’t in the cards for a while!

Until we meet again…