Managing a project like conducting a symphony

Managers can get so involved in the day-to-day activities of managing that they are not in the proper mind-set when asked to lead and execute an important business assignment. This is where visualizing the process comes into play. By thinking through five similarities between managing a Project and conducting a symphony, managers can get a distinct picture of what project management should look like. This will allow them to focus on areas that may otherwise have gone unnoticed or under emphasized causing less that stellar execution.

Steps in Conducting your Project | Symphony Example

First, preparing and conducting (executing) a successful Symphony starts with a clear picture of the result (goal) in mind. Presenting a high quality symphony performance, that entertains and wows the audience, might be a goal of the conductor. Whether preparing for a symphony or an important business Project, having clear and well defined outcomes is very important.

The conductor Develops the Score for the Symphony – The orchestra’s conductor must select the musical score for the Symphony. The conductor brings his/her creative energy, interpretation of music and rendition they see for this piece. Just like a manager developing a Project Plan, the conductor builds a musical plan of action. What instruments come into play, what sequence of presentation, how the various instruments and musicians coordinate the timing and presentation, etc. This is exactly how a business manager should approach the assignment.

The conductor Organizes the Musicians and Shares the Musical Goals – Presentation of the symphony requires having the right musicians and instrumentation precisely coordinated and integrated with how the music is played. Every musician has a role to play in blending their talents and music into the presentation of the musical score. A business manager does the same in developing the Project execution. Selecting, coordinating and motivating the people in the business unit around the goals of the Project Plan is much the same as the Conductor.

Pre-symphony Prepartion and Rehearsal – It is probably obvious to anyone the amount of time and effort that goes into rehearsing for the actual Symphony concert. In order for the conductor to get the precise level of coordination and harmonious integration to deliver the conductor’s vision of how the music should sound, much preparation is required. This should be the case for many business projects but usually is not what happens. In a number of coaching sessions, managers have responded…”how do you rehearse for a business project?” Sometimes this does not make sense, and at other times it does.

Training & rehearsing in Project Management

Group Visual Communication

Delegating through the Employee’s Lens


There are many projects where individuals and work groups can, in fact, practice certain aspects of the Project in preparation for execution. What makes more sense is to compare “training” to “rehearsing.”  Most project requires both specific skills and knowledge and general skills and abilities. Several examples might be ; time management, teamwork, effective communication, necessary computer or technology skills to name a few. A manager can “rehearse” for a future Project by making sure there is ongoing training around the skills and abilities that will be needed in almost any Project.


Direct Your Project Performance

The Conductor Executes the Symphony by Directing the Performance – This is easy to imagine. the conductor (dressed in that long-tail tuxedo) steps to the Podium, picks up the baton and makes sure every musician is focused and ready. The Conductor starts the music with everyone together and during the course of the symphony, points to different musical sections to enter into the music at the right time. The conductor maintains the tempo and pace of the music, exhorts the musicians to the rising level of intensity and makes sure everything is executed as planned. Every manager can benefit from seeing this image of the Conductor directing the Symphony with energy, determination and control.

Executing a successful Project Assignment is very much like conducting a great Symphony. Planning, rehearsing and conducting a symphony is just like planning, training for and executing a project.Managers who approach developing and carrying out a business assignment like a conductor does a Symphony will find they can lead a Project more effectively.

Additional Resources | Project Management

Learn Project Management


Photo / Pixabay / CC BY CCO Public Domain



Michael D. Moore is the publisher of Management By Delegation and is a veteran executive with 40+ years in the Banking and Insurance Industries. A devoted entrepreneur, using his business experience to provide resources for managers and leaders at all levels. For the last 5 years, he has built a growing web presence for helping people with personal and professional development. To learn more about these advanced concepts & join our group Click here 5 Must Have Management Skills

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This