As on the dance floor, so in life …… #2

Ballroom dances are highly choreographed – they can look great, but when circumstances change the dancers may be unable to respond quickly. I once saw a ballroom couple run repeatedly into a wall because their choreographed routine had more steps in it than there was room in their dance hall (I am not making this up). Some businesses run like that – so locked down with instructions and manuals that people feel they must run into a wall rather than make an intelligent decision to go round a corner.

An improvised dance form might seem like a recipe for chaos. How does it work if everyone is doing their own thing and making it up as they go along? There are some businesses which are chaotic, with everyone apparently acting fairly randomly – but this doesn’t work for a growing or larger business. Only the tiniest business can run on the basis of no settled routines or procedures at all, and they’re most unlikely to grow.

Improvised dance forms, like Argentine tango, have rules about how to decide what to do and what is the right direction of travel (the “line of dance”). The dancers practice techniques and fundamentals, which allow them to improvise with confidence. When the unexpected happens, the dancers can make intelligent decisions about what to do – and make it look good and feel rewarding.

To the beginner in dance, both choreographed and improvised dances are the same – a mystery they are struggling to understand. To the practitioner they are very different. The choreographed dance can be polished and practiced, but it has a rigidity that sets limits. The improvised dance gives room for the flash of genius, but it tends to be riskier – although when the fundamentals are properly in place, there is an established baseline of competence that pre-empts serious problems.

When you are writing policies, handbooks and contracts you might want to consider how much choreography is needed and how much room for intelligent (and beautiful) improvisation needs to be left.

Talk to us about creating some fundamentals that will allow you to respond to changing circumstances

“As on the dance floor, so in life!”

Christopher Head is a Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.
Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website :

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