And All That Jazz

All that Jazz

Summertime is music time in Central Iowa. From Jazz in July, to 80-35 Music Festival, to street musicians on every corner at every local Farmer’s Market. To celebrate July 4th, the Des Moines symphony plays the 1812 Overture, and the hills are alive. With the sound of live cannons! Jazz in July here in Iowa is a favorite event. I have believed for a very long time, that the Jazz is a beautiful model for business management. Why? It is easier for me to show you than to tell you.

Many small business owners know they are suppose to have these guiding-light management principles in place:  Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Strategies and Tactics, USP, Brand Promise, etc., etc., and yet, at the same time, many entrepreneurs never get around to writing them. Many question the value of such statements. First of all, they are hard to write. Secondly, any experienced entrepreneur knows that trying to predict the future is pretty much a crapshoot. So they feel if they spend the time to write them at all, it will just mean they will just need constant updating, all of which is just more work! But much of this confusion happens because they do not understand what these statements are suppose to do in the first place. These Statements are actually very very simple. If you find examples online that sound like blah blah blah? Run for the hills. Because that is what these examples are. Useless blah blah blah. If your Statements are never polished enough for the public to read them? That is completely fine. They should be simple enough to be used.

Presenting the ultimate management model: the Jazz Chart. Are you a jazz fan? Have you ever seen a jazz chart? I received this chart from a young local musician. The Jazz chart holds all elements of a song together without dictating each and every move. The red circle on this jazz chart?  Do you know what these measures represent? Here it is, it is suppose to be music, and there are no notes! There are just little slashes. A jazz score does not dictate every note that the artist plays. These slashes mean anything is permissible for the player as long as he/she stays within the provided structure. So what is it that the chart does show? It shows the key structure. It shows the tempo. It shows the melody, and critical elements- the basic structure, just like the Business Statements will do. All of the actual performance is generated in real time. Jazz players improvise their way into the future, in friendly collaboration with the other players. The chart provides just enough structure to provide the ultimate freedom to be creative. The chart enables every player to be fulfilled as a musician, and yet achieve the goal. It’s a beautiful thing.


Jazz Chart

So how does this all relate? A Vision Statement is like a snapshot of what your business will look like when it is all grown up. So it’s like the song you choose to ultimately play. Strategies are the goals you set to accomplish that Vision. So a Strategy is like the chord structures and the tempo and the key signature. Tactics are the individual methods used to achieve the goals- they are like the instrumentation choices. The Mission is why you play that song in the first place. A Unique Selling Proposition is the thing you can say that your competitor cannot say. In other words, it is how and why you can play this song better than anyone else. A Brand Promise is what your product will perform for a specific customer. So your Brand Promise makes the audience glad they bought the ticket for the show.

So instead of laboring over your Business Statements, try adopting a simple Jazz structure for you business. Forget hover management. Write those Statements- even if they remain only a rough draft. It will make your life easier, not harder.

Free yourself. Just be cool. And all that Jazz.