From Surfing to Jazz-another metaphor for leading change through complexity
March 22, 2016
THE JAZZ ensemble- explaining complexity
All of us in organisations can be characterised as being in a jazz ensemble. We are in a sense, connected, interconnected and yet autonomous. It depends upon our particular roles.
Usually we have a formal conductor of the organisational ensemble who operates as our musical link and coordinator. We operate, keeping an eye on the conductor, our ears on the music of others around us, largely interactively and we learn from the “play”, about how to emerge, play the tune, fade in and out and evolve; even to "star" with our "musical" expertise in front of the whole group, intermittently.
We bring our own intents, levels of expertise, biases, experiences, disciplines and aesthetics to our "jazz" team. The broad organisational programme and project rules in our ensembles are set as boundaries in which we work and play our music.
As in jazz ensembles or orchestras there are minimum specifications of time, duration, place, melodies, roles and general rules of engagement. We usually know each other pretty well and we understand "musical" development, organisational development, projects, change, business analysis and the like. We have done all this before in other places/orchestras. Our “music” is a balance of control and improvisation, melody and harmony, within-the-moment changes and adaptations. We listen to each other let some take centre stage at times and adapt ourselves to fashion our “musical” deliverables.
Each of our team member’s enthusiasm affects the rest of us in our jazz ensemble and it affects the receptivity of our audiences. The audiences, our clients, our stakeholders, in turn, affect us, influence us as players with verbal and non verbal expressions of appreciation. Our team organically grows from this. The quality and creativity of the “orchestra” and various ensembles depends upon all our complex interactions.
Emerging patterns affect the performance on each successive piece. Each performance is unique but patterns are apparent. Creativity and efficiency emerge naturally. Change does not have to be imposed. Basic rules are needed, positive contacts, links and networks, relationships among us and our clientele to allow solutions to emerge, in "song" and in substantive deliverables. We all function as autonomous agents within basic rules as system agents.
We work in a container of the particular jazz/work contexts, our workplace, our department, our specific roles, the rules of the position, and the project timelines. We, as agents, reside in these sorts of containers. The contributions of the jazz ensemble are all different and yet similar. Each of us plays a different instrument, but the continuous change of melodies and harmonies are the significant differences that make the uniqueness and value of our contributions as a team.
How we influence each other as we “play” or work in our specific roles and how we interact with our audiences are the transforming exchanges that lead to evolving patterns that emerge.
Pick up your instrument and show your expertise. Take your "lead" in the musical play. Add to the music and all the jazz in your organisation.
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