All the organizations I worked with grouped work around teams. Some of those teams had two members, others had six or more. Many teams worked well, some of them operated at peak performance. Others didn't fare well at all.
For many years I had a print hanging in my office that depicts a jazz combo with the caption "Synergy". Good jazz has synergy so too has good teamwork. Jazz players know when to take the lead and when to recede. They don't overwhelm each other, they complement each other. When team members work together like jazz musicians weaving in and out of the movements and swinging back and forth in syncopation and synergy then we have good teamwork.
In addition, jazz music also has structure and form. The structure is made up of the repeating forms that make up the music, such as notes, phrases and bars. This structure along with form brings life to jazz and allows it to have its beautiful elasticity, movement and swing.
Like cool jazz, a successful team also requires structure and form. Over the years I have found that a team's structure is made up of eight building blocks (in music terms the forms that make up the structure), each propelling it to higher levels of team performance. They are:
Are these the only building blocks that lead to highly successful teamwork? Not necessarily. Jazz composers write several excellent jazz pieces, each one with different sounds and movements, but the overall structure remains the same - it's what allows us to call the music jazz. So too, we can add another movement or building block to our piece, or we can substitute one building block for another, for example we could add "Clarifying Team Processes" instead of "Systematizing Processes;" or, "Managing Meetings" instead of "Making effective team decisions." The eight blocks I have chosen as foundational to successful teamwork is not a definitive number. However, if team leaders engage team members in cementing these eight blocks together, they will find that the members of the team will work with greater focus, synergy, collaboration and trust.
What to do: Are your team members working together like a jazz combo? Is it time to revitalize your team? Review the eight building blocks with your team members and ask them which one requires more work. Put swing and a bit of renewed life, symbolized by the renewal of Spring, back into your team.
Richard P. Fontanie MSW, FCMC, From the Fontanie Learning Solutions Archives
Image: ambro at Freedigitalphoto.net