I fell in love with jazz the first time I heard it. The way each musician exercises their craft while contributing to the group effort to produce a magnificent sound. The flexibility to improvise, with one artist taking the music in a new direction and the others making instantaneous adjustments to accommodate that. The mutual trust and understanding that the group is always there, backing an individual’s foray into something new. Even as I’m caught up in the music, I appreciate the depth and complexity of what is transpiring between and among the musicians.
Something similar happens every day at Farragut as we work together in synergy. Building on our first core value of courage, our synergy begins with the idea that we are all different, and we all bring unique talents to our work.
In the same way the pianist and clarinetist contribute different but equally important sounds to the jazz combo, product owners, developers, quality assurance (QA) team members, and customer support folks all play different but equally critical roles. Moreover, no two pianists — or developers — express their expertise in precisely the same way. We thus fundamentally recognize and value individuals for their distinctive talents.
Synergy: Custom and Complementary RolesAnd we go beyond simply recognizing and valuing these differences. We deliberately work to customize roles for our employees that play to their strengths and position them to maximize their individual potential. Just as a jazz ensemble selects a piece that highlights the unusual range of one of their saxophone players, we identify — and create — opportunities for our people to shine.
We also seek to cultivate work groups where individuals can play complementary roles. We think carefully about how to fashion teams where one person’s strength may balance another person’s weakness. Where if one person goes quiet, another can fill the void — just like one member of a jazz quartet can pick up when another’s improv starts to fade.
Synergy: Acceptance and AdvancementAs we create or expand teams, bringing people together in ways that allow them to do and be more than the sum of their parts, we emphasize a culture of acceptance. That is, we encourage everyone to express their true selves, and to do so with confidence.
When a jazz drummer decides to try the bass, that’s not a dereliction of duty; it’s an opportunity to explore an alternate aspect of their musicality. Similarly, when a developer wants to move into QA — or when someone in QA wants to be a developer — it’s a chance to express another facet of their personality. Granting employees the freedom to be who they truly are enables them to operate at their peak.
Synergy: What Results from This Approach?For one thing, deep, long-lasting, and mutually beneficial relationships among team members who magnify one another’s strengths, compensate for each other’s weaknesses, and bond in pursuit of their common goals. With an in-depth understanding and acceptance of what everyone brings to the table, and a willingness to take risks knowing the group supports them, our people grow together in synergetic community, capable of producing tremendous results.
These relationships extend to our customers, as well, as the ways in which we view individuals and teams within the company extend beyond it. In valuing what each of our customers brings to a project and in striving to create complementary cross-company teams, we set the stage for highly productive, long-term, “win-win” relationships — relationships that bring out the best in everyone involved and ultimately best serve our customers.
We also benefit from teams that are autonomous, empowered, and accountable:
Because everybody is coming from a position of strength, doing what they do well, teams can be autonomous — there is no need for top-down direction or other interference in their day-to-day operations.
With thoughtful balancing of personnel and customers, each team has everything it needs to succeed. We empower teams to make decisions — collective decisions that we believe are far superior to any individual decision that might be made.
Finally, the commitment our team members feel toward one another and their customers — as a natural outgrowth of the way these relationships are structured — leads to an enormous degree of accountability, between and among employees and between employees and customers.
What doesn’t result from our approach is a magical, perfect company environment. This is our aspiration; we work to be better each day. Like musicians, we improve through practice and persistence.
While Farragut isn’t in the music business, our employees, like jazz musicians, create something more together than they could apart. Given the latitude to bring their unique and most authentic selves to work and to play integral roles on complementary teams pursuing common goals, our employees makes their own beautiful music — to the betterment and benefit of themselves, the company, and our customers.
Do You Have a Story?Do you have a story about making your own kind of beautiful music? Please share it in the comments below. Our world could use more synergy and harmony.