March 2015 | Volume 8, Issue #6    
In This Issue
The Alisdair & Brian Show - Sat, Apr 18, 2015
Provocative Jazz Quote
Great Jazz for a Great Cause
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I should have acknowledged in the last e-zine where I got the image of the Poetry and Practicalities.  It was from Jay Olsen, a United Church minister in Vancouver who specializes in transitional ministries.  She's currently working with South Burnaby United Church.  It has been a provocative image for me and I am grateful for her combining those words.


So, what are the practicalities that implement your poetry?  Let's play around a bit with them within the framework of the 4 Ps of successful organizations - Purpose, Possibilities, People, and Processes.


Remember, the poetry arises from the most powerful words you have discovered that focus on and energize your purpose.  We played with that riff in the last e-zine.


But how does the poetry of purpose translate into practicalities in your work around possibilities, people, and processes? 




The key here is to get a broad range of options on the table for consideration.  The only way this works well is to stay curious much longer than usual.  In a rushed organizational environment, we tend to cut off these conversations much too soon.  We settle for a couple of quickly-imagined options, especially if they are ours and especially if we have leadership authority in the group. 


The practical discipline here is patience - patience to surface a wider variety of options to consider and patience to convene the conversations that explore the pros and cons thoroughly.  What often happens is that a new option emerges from those conversations that blends the best and eliminates the worst of everything being considered.


Here's the key question to keep in mind:


Am I creating and holding the space for the best possibility to be co-created?




I have never been sure where to put people in this 4 Ps framework for thinking about organizations. In many ways, they come first. They are the component that makes the whole system work. They have the power to slow it down, grind it to a halt, or make it soar like a swinging jazz piece.  It is people who determine purpose, imagine possibilities, and create process, so the whole enterprise relies on the input of people. But, for this article, for this iteration of the framework, I am putting people third in the flow of performance, after purpose and possibilities. 


Once a possibility has been chosen (by people, obviously), the next step is to identify the talents and the interests that best serve the possibility and align talented and motivated people, with their input, to specific accountabilities in making it happen. 


Equally important, but less frequently done, is to assign support for these efforts. Keep in mind that people have a much broader range of abilities than most personality assessment-driven cultures acknowledge and that interest in the purpose will motivate people to put the extra energy into learning and using new skills to achieve it.


Here's the key question to keep in mind:


Who can best serve and best support each key element in executing this possibility?




Even with exceptional clarity about poetic purpose, optimal possibility, and best people alignment, projects can flail and fail due to lack of processes to channel the energy and talent into the desired performance.


Jazz is a far more structured art form than most realize, but the structure is minimal. Adrian Cho in The Jazz Process: Collaboration, Innovation, and Agility (2010), one of the best books on jazz and organizations that I've read, says, "Employ just enough rules to afford autonomy, while at the same time avoiding chaos." That's a tough creative tension to sustain, but it's crucial in realizing the practical benefits of your poetry.


To be fully owned and, therefore, most effective, the process needs to be co-created by the team with optimal buy-in. That takes time in conversation, one conversation after another, revising and refining the process as you learn together what kinds of structures, rules, and conventions work best for this team in achieving the purpose.


Here's the key question to keep in mind:


Does this process help or hinder the implementation of this possibility?


As always, it's about the quality of the conversations


This exploration of poetry and practicalities over the past couple of e-zines has treated the poetry as the melody, the possibilities as the harmonies, the people as the musicians, and the processes as the conventions/traditions in jazz. It all flows together, holds together, through conversations, one conversation after another. 


Are your conversations in the organizations that matter most to you this well composed, honed, and performed to achieve the quality of performance you hear in the best jazz group you can imagine?


If not, you owe it to yourself and your colleagues to practice your presence in conversation more and seek the support of others in becoming the improvement artists you can be.


As always, if you think Jazzthink can help provoke the poetry and practicalities of improvement in your organization or in your leadership, get in touch with me to explore the possibilities further at







Hone Your Voice to Manage the Moment - Sat, Apr 18, 2015


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If the lead article this month tweaked your interest in honing your voice for innovative leadership, here's a chance for challenge, practice, and support.  Alisdair is a dear friend and colleague who has worked in leadership and organizational development with credit unions across Canada for the last 20 years. I'm very excited about the synergy I know this collaboration will generate. Please come, bring your colleagues and friends, and add your brilliance to the gig. You can pay by Pay Pal and let Alisdair know by e-mail that you are coming. 



Provocative Jazz Quote

Short, simple, and profound - from an interview with jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, jazz artist of the year in DownBeat's 2012 Critics Poll, on 'This Week' on PBS on Mar 6, 2015.



"When people listen to my music, 

   I want them to feel cared for."


Do people feel 'cared for' when they hear your voice in conversation?  Do they feel respected, valued, and honoured?  If they don't, it's highly likely they won't listen.  And if they don't listen, you're wasting your breath.  And that's too valuable a resource to waste.  So care for the people you speak with.  Care enough to invite them into the conversation as colleagues and collaborators.   


Great Jazz for a Great Cause

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The concern is tonight, but it's not too late to get together with some friends and come to hear some amazing jazz at the Sanctuary in Brentwood.  Your support for this emerging community arts centre at Brentwood Presbyterian Church, where I serve as minister half-time, is greatly appreciated.