One band. One sound. How work groups are similar to school bands.

A fun fact about me, I played the saxophone in a school band. I was the kid carrying a black suitcase back and forth to school for a portion of middle and high school. Let my father tell it; I was the next Kenny G. I loved the band; there was something special about turning what, at times, looked like a bunch of dots on lines into a beautiful piece. One built by a collective. When I think about it, workgroups, specifically design projects, are similar to performing in a band.

A working group is similar to a marching band in that both are composed of individuals working together towards a common goal. Each musician plays a specific instrument in a band and contributes unique skills and talents to the overall performance. Similarly, in a working group, each member has particular expertise and collaborates to achieve a shared objective.

Parts of a whole

Just as a conductor is responsible for leading the marching band and ensuring that all musicians work harmoniously, a leader or facilitator is typically responsible for overseeing a working group and keeping the group focused and on track.

Design leads look to product or project managers, and band directors look to section leaders to help maintain focus. They are the brains behind a shared understanding of the group's goals and objectives. Central to the planning, coordination, and communication central to effective decision-making.

Blending is so crucial within the band. To achieve this harmonious sound, you need to listen to your teammates, specifically to hear their actions. They're skilled; you trust this, so it's okay to do nothing but hear them out and seek the most accurate form of what they're performing before you. Your section would blend with the section leader's voice (instrument) at the center. This voice served as a guide. It allows blending to do what it does best; layaway for differing tones to create something unique beyond the sum of their parts.

One band. One sound. 

The band room

I mentioned trust earlier; trust is incredibly important. A well-managed, controlled, and "bought into"* environment is also essential. I don't believe you can effectively have one without the other. And with their powers combine, teams can comfortably cultivate collective (🙃) empathy. Leaning into what others are saying, letting go of differences, and allowing what's similar to take the floor.

Whether in a performance, a brainstorming session, or any other type of working group, a trustworthy environment can be the foundation for the group to move forward, the spark behind making actionable steps and accomplishing its goals.


Groups can also-much like performing- strive to work like kids, with a particular type of honest, innocent enthusiasm that is indispensable when creating a thriving working environment. This is where inspiration and real magic are born.

The band is where I found my love for magic. We were always accomplishing the impossible. Though we weren't always sure of our talents, trust, and seeing each other, a well-managed and safe routine led to achieving what seemed unachievable.

I may not be the next Kenny G, but I carry the heart of a musician everywhere I go.