Drum this Into Your PM Head!

kimberly-rocking-out.JPGHaving been told my whole life that sometimes I can be a bit too intense, it was enormously liberating to finally find an environment where I blended right in: a drum circle of more than 50 passionate lunatics banging away like they were being paid by the decibel. These were not people in search of cutting edge project management best practices. They were seekers of enlightenment in a workshop at Esalen, an idyllic setting on the California coast just south of a town called Big Sur (quite the misnomer because there is nothing “big” about this town: it’s somewhere between the “Slow” and “Resume Speed” signs on Highway 1). As much as I tried not to think about the PMBOK and other icons of our business world, I couldn’t help but notice a few particularly relevant metaphors in the cacophony. Here’s some of what I learned about communication while relentlessly thumping a dead piece of goat skin stretched across a hollowed out log:

  • Listen first. It’s easy to start making noise, but you’ve really got to listen to what’s going on first before you can contribute something that works.
  • Value silence. Sometimes it’s the spaces between the sounds that matter most.
  • Leave room for other voices. Inexperienced drummers play a lot of notes. More skilled players know that making as big of a racket as possible isn’t the point.

Later this week I’ll share some of the other hallucinations I had about project management while drumming, like how it relates to teamwork, shared control and leadership.

Are there any musicians out there? Do me a favor – put down your saxophone and leave a comment sharing what you’ve learned about people and teams through music and rhythm.


1 thought on “Drum this Into Your PM Head!”

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    As a professional musician in a past career lifetime, I can relate to lessons learned from this experience.

    I found while trying to perfect the presentation of a piece, whether for competition or recording, that when I recorded a song and played it back, I systemically got better. That’s because I received FEEDBACK from an unbiased media. Indeed, some of the best expressions came from the pauses or silence. In performing, from my point of view, I needed to keep putting the music out there. However, from the listeners point of view, the pauses or gaps led to dramatic tension that improved the listening experience. I could only come to this realization by making the effort to get objective feedback.

    I also found that people responded when I performed. If I’d never taken the risk to perform in public, I’d never gotten the encouragement to keep on going, practice to get better, and be invited to a variety of venues. Fortunately, I also had a sponsor–my mother–who encouraged me to keep practicing.

    These simple lessons from music are invaluable to the practice of project management.

    Randy Englund, http://www.englundpmc.com

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