As a musician, I'm very sensitive about music, with a special award to jazz big bands. There's a lot of similarities between conducting this kind of orchestra and manager's job... Let's have a look to 4 of these similarities.

Forming the right group

A jazz band, big or small, has to consist of music players that are willing to provide audience with an exceptional performance. As for a project team, the result of the group will be assessed more than individual performances.

However, players shall also have the ability to play solo at some moments of the score. They'll not able to hide behind someone else : they'll have to make it.

I like to listen to Neal Hefti "Girl talk" as instruments sounds fully melt to please our ears, and when solo, trumpet or piano can take the lead to provide us with a fantastic feeling...

Take care when recruiting your team

No room for overweighted egos. People are expected to be good at their speciality, confident in their abilities to carry out what they're asked, but not arrogant: quality of the output mainly depend on people's ability to work within a team.

I recently experienced strong impediments with someone who had excellent technical skill, taking care of working well, fast and to comply with state-of-the-art quality requirements. However, despite these qualities, its onboarding into the team was a complete disaster:

  • In case of disagreement with decisions he considered as in the scope of his abilities, conflicts between members of expertise pool
  • His way of communication with the management was based on threats instead of argumentation and influence ("If you go with this decision, it's out of my hands from now on...")
  • In the same situation, he used his "expert" status within the team to influence people against the decision which had been approved, leading to loss of cohesion within the team, and creation of opposed sides
  • Despite his potential, he kept on sticking to intellectual postures instead of trying to learn and try to change vantage points

Despite all the technical qualities he had, his key status in terms of expertise on the project, I pled for his reassignment to another engagement, as far his lack of cooperation threatened the performance and cohesion of the team as a whole...

Keep the tempo

Have you ever looked at a conductor in front of his orchestra ? To have experienced it as a musician, he always seems to be slightly ahead the tempo you have in mind, and focuses on some groups of musicians, spending more energy and moving more to make this group accelerate if they're falling behind the tempo, and making larger gestures,  suggesting more calm, if they need to slow down. A conductor is at the right place to ear discrepencies in tempi of each group of musicians, which cannot be heard by musicians themselves because of a basic physical law : the limited speed of sound...

That's the same within a project team. Some members are more experienced, some have more potential and other are freshers or have less potential. However, coaching and mentoring are necessary to keep the tempo for the team as a whole... Otherwise, people who fall behind can never catch-up, which leads to poorer performances for the team.

If this situation was to occur in a 100 musicians orchestra, the result would be totally ugly, despite the talent of many soloists composing it.

Let it groove

Do you think that "big" always mean "heavy and slow" ? Do you think that it's not possible to reach good performance with a big team ?

Pay attention to this all times jazz classic Count Basie & Duke Ellington - Battle Royal... Count Basie and Duke Ellington have merged their excellent orchestra to record this masterpiece. Don't you feel at the same time the power of 80 musicians playing and the groove and nimbleness in performance ? This result is the combination of the genius of Count Basie and Duke Ellington and the passion of their musicians.

To succeed, people in your team shall follow and support you, and at the same time be passioned by what they accomplish. They have to feel their mission fulfilling.

Pour in all your heart

Look at this Electro Deluxe Big Band video... If you're like me and you like this kind of music, don't you feel like you wanna dance ?

The singer and conductor are fully dedicated to the music and dance themselves,therefore music grooves, and other people start dancing !!!

Always show your team that you are motivated by stakes and by what they accomplish. It will spread out in a positive dynamics (virtuous circle).


#1 Maxime Macron 2012-09-27 12:16
Many thanks for your comment on LinkedIn, Michel Operto.
Here is the link to the article (in French) on Michel Podolak conference for PMI France-Sud :

You have no rights to post comments