Roger wrote about good product teams playing jazz:

Good products teams learn to play jazz. They don’t need orchestration. They don’t have a central controlling role. No one leads the team or assigns the work. The team does this themselves. They decide together.

I love it. It’s a metaphor I’ve used before, and I’ve been lucky enough to be on a team or two that felt like a jazz band. Pure collaborative improvisation.

There are many minimum specifications to meet to make it work though. Deep knowledge, active learning, technical proficiency, creativity, discipline and practice, and passion (to name a few). Of highest importance is collaboration and psychological safety.

Collaboration and psychological safety doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build that chemistry. Some teams can gel more quickly than others, but dedication to creating an environment in which improvisation can happen is a product manager’s paramount concern.

Create spaces to fail safely. That means practising work processes on silly tasks. Boil a sprint and all its ceremonies down into a 30-minute activity to create a monster or design a house. See what breaks and what doesn’t.

Take a week off and create a shared identity. Mottos, stickers, posters, starter packs, desktop backgrounds, desk toys. Fill your hybrid spaces with those as well as your physical spaces.

Good teamwork needs work, so work on it. Like the Dave Brubeck Band, take five.