Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Project Manager as a Conductor

One of the favorite analogies in project management says that you can consider a project as a piece of music and the project team as a group of musicians: Band, Orchestra, Ensemble,etc. That makes the Project Manager the Conductor or Leader, the person responsible for making the group play and the music to flow. At it’s best the music is transcendent, at its worst it is a cacophony of discordant notes: Beethoven or Schoenberg, Teamwork or muddle. 

The important principle is that members of the group have to understand their role and the impact it has on the performance of the team. Critically the smaller the team the greater the impact of each role. A bum note in a sweeping orchestral movement will be lost, the same error in a string quartet is calamitous. However in a small group feedback on a performance is quick. The error and its creator are obvious to everyone, including them. In a large group then people can deny error and pass it off to another player. So the second violins as a section “carry the can” rather than an individual violinist.

Where the analogy breaks down is in the world of matrix management of resources. Imagine an orchestra in which every section is answerable to a different conductor as well as the person who is standing on the podium in the spotlight. And at random periods during the performance the section conductor is giving different advice on how to play the piece, or worse yanking the player off the stage to play for another group. 

Matrix management manifestly will not work for an orchestra, and it often doesn’t work for projects. Pity too many managements don’t realize that fact!

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