Silence filled the air. Total darkness. The curtain was drawn slowly… A beam of light shone onto you and all of a sudden, you became the focus of the night. You waved your baton nonchalantly and the sound of flutes permeated the hall. With a few more clicks of the wrist, the violins followed. You were the Maestro, the conductor of the night.
No, you were also the project manager of a multimillion-dollar project. The musicians in front of you were the members in the project team each with a specific role to play. The musical instruments in their hands were the tools required to accomplish the goals in the project. You shuddered a little initially as you remembered that was the first time you were working with the ensemble, your project team. You have worked with different ensembles – chamber, sinfonietta, symphony etc. in your career hopping from one performance (project) to another. Occasionally, you also need to work with smaller ensembles like duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet and octet etc. But in those performances, you played the role of musician instead. You are a veteran. That night was no difference from any other nights. You regained your poise immediately as you know you mustn’t let your audience (stakeholder) down.
Your eyes were fixated on the score – your project plan, too afraid to miss out any important ictus. You have conducted scores of various musical forms – overture, impromptu, intermezzo, concerto, rhapsody, serenade, sonata and symphony etc. The musical form shapes the score just like the way the methodology characterizes your project plan. As you were struggling to keep your ensemble in consonance, you recalled how badly you had stumbled to keep your project team in pace with the project plan. You knew that any slight mistake would be fatal, both for the performance and your project. Your audience were watching, albeit some were sleeping while a couple of others were trying to appreciate what was being played on stage. Yet, you knew they were watching. Your duties as a conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble. As a professional project manager, you need to ensure your team delivers the project in time, within scope and budget, and with quality that meets the expectation of the stakeholders.
Despite there is a host of similarities between conducting musicals and managing projects, their success rates are at extreme ends. What is missing here? Is there anything we can learn from conducting to improve the likelihood of success in managing projects? One obvious difference observed is that a musical performance usually gets a lot more rehearsed before going live. Can we trial run a project plan? If we can, how should we do it?
Rhythm of the Ball
When I was young, I used to be fascinated by the sound of bouncing ball. The rhythm created by the sheer kinetic-to-sound energy exchange was so untainted and gripping that it sometimes resonated with my heartbeat. Now, inspired by the old classic game Arkanoid and Breakout, I finally have a chance to recreate this spectacular experience by bouncing balls off the walls formed with the word “PMO”. Turn on your volume and enjoy the clip above.