Several years ago the rock group Van Halen had an interesting line item or stipulation in their contract. As a result of that one particular item, infamously known as article 126, it labeled the band as demanding, arrogant and difficult to work with.
The line in the contract involved M & M’s. The language stipulated that there was to be a bowl of M & M’s backstage with all of the brown ones removed. Your mind may have jumped as quickly as mine to “You have got to be kidding me!” David Lee Roth, lead singer of Van Halen, said it took “nine eighteen-wheeler trucks” (1) to carry all their gear from venue to venue. As you can expect, the band could not check everything as it was being set up so they decided to check one thing, the M & M bowl.
According to Roth article 148 of the contract said, “There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes." (2) Then in article 126 right there in the middle of the contract with all of the technical speak it read, "There will be no brown M & M's in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation." (3)
So, why no brown M & M’s? Answer, For quality control! Once Van Halen arrived at their show location Roth would simply walk backstage, look in the M & M jar, and if he saw a brown one he knew the contract had not been read in it’s entirety. This was a quality control issue, not an entitlement issue. Here are my thoughts about that brown M & M’s.
1. See the little things that make the little difference that make the big difference.
A big picture doesn’t come without small details. Brown M & M’s may not be that important by themselves but what they represent are those little things. Sometimes we get so caught up in the big picture of vision we miss those tiny little things that can derail us later. So, do the little things that make the big difference.
2. Do the best you can with what you have at the moment.
Sure, there are times when things just fall apart or don’t work or don’t work well. You planned your best, you prepared your best and you did your best but something went wrong. It was unforeseen or an accident and things just didn’t go according to plan. It happens to all of us. If you have a standard of excellence you can at least rest assured you did the best you could with what you had at the time.
3. Put out a bowl.
Because Van Halen did so many concerts in so many locations it would have been impossible for them to check every plug, every circuit and every light. If the brown M & M’s were in the bowl they made an assumption. That assumption being if the people at the arena missed on the M & M clause it would be safe to say they missed something else that would be cause for alarm. Put out a bowl of M & M’s the next time you are running an event so you can determine if something as been overlooked.
We obviously can’t spend all our time checking every aspect of a program or event we are running and I am not suggesting we do. The brown M & M is an assessment tool, a pre-evaluation before we start something significant. A simple way to check one thing so we don’t have to check everything.
Question: How can you implement a brown M & M into what you are currently planning?
Notes: 1,2,3 Roth,DavidLee. Crazy From The Heat. NewYork: Hyperion,1997.