Successful organizations structure themselves into small focused teams composed of passionate and talented people with specific imperatives to achieve that are designed to make the best use of the capabilities and potential of the team.
These teams operate, as business writer Jim Ewing has observed, "more like jazz groups that they do like symphony orchestras." When genuinely free to manage themselves, these groups tend towards self-confidence and creativity. They adapt to deliver efficiency, responsiveness, and productivity in constantly changing circumstances.
Here are the parallels between jazz groups and successful workplace teams that Ewing found:
· They are organized around the work to be done and the assets to do it;
· They are self-contained in breadth of knowledge and experience to deliver the desired results;
· They develop their own identify, ways of work, and ethos to maximize operational effectiveness;
· They can be independent and almost rogue-like in their style, but create an exceptional performance in the end.
Within the group, the jazz dynamic works like this:
· The group agrees to the tune, the key, the harmonic progressions, and the rhythm;
· The leader sets a beat, provides the countdown, and starts the performance;
· The players carry on an unfolding dialogue of technically skilled, spirited, and expressive human beings;
· The players listen to one another and reflect internally on what they hear while they speak through their instrumental voices, depending on highly interactive communication to succeed;
· The players are valued for their ability to express themselves powerfully and their ability to relate and interact with the other performers quickly;
· The quality of performance depends on experimentation, learning, risk taking, individual experience, and personal expression that transcends previous limits;
· The goal is nothing less than the highest level of personal challenge, interaction, learning, and performance;
· At crucial times throughout the performance, the leader signals major changes in key or rhythm and tells everyone when to finish.
Ewing has unpacked with provocative wisdom the complex dynamics of great performance by drawing these parallels between teams and jazz groups. Take a moment and reflect on the dynamics of the teams upon whom you depend to achieve your goals. Is this potent blend of passion, individuality, talent, discipline, learning, mutuality, and execution there most of the time? If not, what kind of considerate conversations can you have to discover together how better to realize this potential?
The potential for this kind of performance is there in every group. You just have to inquire appreciatively to discover it. Enjoy the search and the results.