Sep 20, 2011

The CEO: Like the Conductor of the Symphony Orchestra

I was at the Symphony Orchestra of India concert on Sunday (18th) and the long haired conductor Evgeny Bushkov was wildly gesticulating and keeping his team glued to him and his audience enthralled. While I enjoyed the music, I was wondering all along  - what is the purpose and significance of the conductor's movements. All the musicians have sheet music in front of them and play according to that. The composer has created the music, the musicians are playing it. The Leader (generally the first violinist) organizes everyone. So why is the conductor required?

On doing some research on wikipedia it became very clear that there is very little real music that is being created by the Conductor but a whole lot of value is provided that cannot be done away with.  In fact, in the Sovient Union, they had come up with the idea of Conductor-less orchestra and it lasted about 10 years but soon the movement died. The biggest problem encountered then was to keep tempo of the 100+ person team. The second biggest problem was the concept of emotion - that was missing without the conductor. It was very clinical. Music is a product of emotion. How do you synchronize and harmonize the emotion of so many musicians?

I was trying to draw a parallel between the conductor and CEO of a company. The role of the Leader and CEO of a company has several similarities. He actually does not really produce any of the widgets that the company produces. He has a COO who is heading the operations, CFO who manages finances, a HR head to manage talent etc. etc. . If everyone is doing their jobs based on their job description and the rule book (according to process) then why is the CEO required?

The CEO is required to keep the tempo of the organization. He orchestrates the starts and stops of the music (work/production) from various teams, he changes the emotion/ passion of the various teams to achieve harmony among the various instrument groups (departments of the company). He is there to chose the widget to produce (Music to play). His hand movements change the tempo or speed of the music and this is what the CEO has to do - he has to speedup and change the tempo of various teams to achieve a common outcome.

The Conductor cues in different instruments and gets them ready (makes them alert). The CEO has to understand the company's production process to keep the various teams ready before their time has come for action - so that the best performance can be achieved at the exact time that is required.

The conductor understands the audience and the auditorium and changes the volume and tenor of the music. The CEO understands the market dynamics and changes the positioning of the organization.

Eye contact and facial expressions communicate a whole lot to both the conductor and the musicians. The same way the CEO need to have constant communication with the different teams. The facial expressions encourage the players, they intimidate the players and reward the players as they go through the piece. The CEOs communication to his team should also encourage, intimidate and reward his teams. The communication is sometime directed towards a particular musician or a whole group of musicians - same as the CEO.

His objective is very clear - to produce a piece of music that is loved by the audience. The CEOs objective is very clear, to produce a widget that is loved by the market. Rest everything has also got to be done to achieve the end game.