Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Gift of Teamwork

The task was daunting, the time frame was pressing, and the outcome was magical. Resurrecting a 65 year old musical composition by musicians who had never before sung together for a 45-minute window in a recording studio was the challenge.

The idea began with favors. After stumbling upon a hand-written piece of sheet music written for four-part vocals 65 years ago by an artist now enjoying her days in an assisted living apartment in rural Minnesota, I just needed to locate a baritone, a tenor, an alto, and a soprano. With a visit to the author scheduled for the Memorial Day weekend, a forty-five minute slot was available at Elmhurst College’s Gretsch Recording Studio. The task was clear: find the singers, hope they harmonize, capture the moment, burn it to a CD, and deliver it to the author.

Six degrees of separation were not required to find the musicians and recording technicians. The inspiration of the gift motivated my first two solicitations to blossom into an impromptu team of willing artists. While microphones were being assembled and sound-checked, the four musicians introduced and began practicing. The first take was experimental. The piece had been written with intentional dissonance. “Are you sure she intended a D-sharp here?” queried the alto. The composer’s intent unfolded in the second and third takes. Seemingly disparate notes grew harmonious in the context of the tones that followed. All discord eventually resolved musically. The fourth take was nearly flawless. The fifth take was magic.

The composer had no warning. The recently minted CD along with some photos of the recording session arrived unexpectedly at the assisted living facility. Once the music began playing, her face transformed as she tried to solve the mystery. A look of puzzlement gradually eased into a soft smile as she recognized her creation and savored its expression. A tear formed in her eye as she sorted through the photos. A detailed story of the original composition was shared as we listened again. Mission accomplished.

Teams form for many reasons. This time it was to create a gift for someone who had given her talent to the world. The investment of time and talent was based on generosity. The trust between artists unfolded immediately as they blended their voices to become one. Innovation leaped from this quickly formed foundation of investment and trust. Once the task was complete, goodbyes were exchanged and the participants moved on to new endeavors. Teammates for moment in time.

Amazing teams assemble randomly all the time.  Who’s on your team?


Embracing Change

I attended the Chicago area’s Second Annual DuPage County Regional Business Outlook forum titled “Embracing Change” this morning. Keynote speaker and Chief Economist, Diane Swonk, was joined on a panel by business and political leaders representing a spectrum of industries and interests. Vibrant conversation ensued as participants wrestled with strategies for adapting to the unprecedented economic landscape and leveraging early optimism for recovery.  One theme threaded through the morning: the only constant is change.

Predictable networking conversations followed the formal presentation.  How’s it going in your workplace?  Have things stabilized?  How did you survive all the changes?  What will be different moving forward?  What are the fundamental principles of effective change management?

The Team Clock Institute views the fundamental principles of effective change management as predictable and cyclical:

1. Continuously recalibrate norms and goals to accommodate new realities.

2. Empower diversity-based decision making and non-negotiable accountability for delivery on new goals.

3. Leverage healthy conflict and differences to anchor innovation and smart risk taking.

4. Commit to mature and resilient response in adapting to the change you create and to the impact caused by others that affects you.

5. Cycle around to Step 1 and repeat.

Thriving businesses and organizations are always aware of where they are on the cycle and why they are where they are.  This awareness informs the actions that are most likely to result in effective teamwork in the midst of change.  Consider what aspect of change you are seeking to embrace:  Investment (recalibrate norms and goals…)?  Trust (non-negotiable accountability…)?  Innovation (smart risk taking…)?  Distancing (mature and resilient response in adapting…)?  Where is your team on the Team Clock?