Month: August 2014

Ask a Musician: Workflow

Ask a Musician: Workflow

By: Cody Soska


Conductor_Baltazar Hertel


Frederik Magle: by Morten Skovgaard

Welcome to the “Ask a Musician” section of the Harmonic Systems Consulting blog, where I explore a component of business operations to better understand its value by relating it to a familiar musical concept. Our first topic: Workflow!

Workflow is “An orchestrated and repeatable pattern of business activity enabled by the systematic organization of resources into processes that transform materials, provide services, or process information.” (Business Process Management [BPM] Center of Excellence).

It is appropriate that the BPM article mentions orchestration when defining workflow, because that’s what all organizations are comprised of: the orchestration of people, resources, time and capital. Likewise, with a musical performance of, say, Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis – one of the greatest masterpieces in musical history – a synthesis of the time and effort of a number of performers must align perfectly to accomplish the goal of a successful and moving performance.

Conductor _fountain

Without the alignment of time, resources and effort towards a clearly defined goal, the taking of a product or service (or, in this case, a finished musical performance) from its planning and development stage to its final note of completion, will fail. From piece selection to preparation; from first rehearsal to dress rehearsal; and from performance to performance, all of the effort in a business organization or orchestra must be harmonically balanced to achieve true Workflow Efficiency.

Part of this effort that is imperative to a successful musical performance is managing and measuring processes. For example: If the music director of a symphony finds that predetermined benchmarks in the score are not being rehearsed by a set deadline, the symphony will not be ready in time for its first performance. If the instrumentalists are not tuned by the time the conductor is ready to begin rehearsal, time is lost. The music director, performers and librarians must carefully track their department’s individual tasks and ensure that process goals are met in a timely manner. If these goals aren’t met, time, money, and resources will be wasted – or, worse, the performance will fail.

In business this concept is no different. Without true Workflow Efficiency, and organization’s process benchmarks will not be met. Over time this can lead to lost revenue, lower ROI, and losing clients. Every client is your most important client, and they deserve the performance of a lifetime! Carefully measure, plan, and manage your processes to ensure that none of your resources aren’t spent achieving your organization’s vision and giving your client the best experience possible.

While you consider this, try listening to an example of what Workflow Efficiency can do for your business: Philippe Herreweghe conducting Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

9 Expertly Tested Ways to Fail at Strategic Planning


There are at least nine different ways to make sure everybody’s favorite activity, Strategic Planning, fails. Those nine, sure-fire methods are:


1st: Keep whatever you are planning a secret. The competitive environment requires that we keep our strategic thinking under wraps. We don’t want anything important to get out. Besides, what would the rest of the organization do with the plan if they had it? They don’t really need to know the big picture.


2nd: Conduct strategy planning with managers only. Take a group of top management personnel off to a nice site for a couple of days. After all, they are paid to think. If you involve other people you may have to contend with input you cannot predict or control.


3rd: Be polite & don’t rock the boat. Since you were invited to the planning meeting you must be important (see above). Now just keep quiet (plain common sense). If you keep your thoughts to yourself, you will not be associated with a failure. Besides, you don’t want to upset anyone.


4th: Advocate doing everything. This approach is very effective. Everybody agrees there are a lot of things to do, and it makes sense that we’d be better off if they all got done. So, put as many “strategies” as you can think of on a list, prioritize them, agree to do everything and go home. Everybody feels great; nobody really finishes anything, and life goes on.


5th: Let the plan implement itself. Talk about a “no-brainer”. Everybody feels pretty good after the planning sessions, even if they are a bit tired. Nobody is going to object if we don’t fill in all the implementation details. Let the responsible people take care of implementation themselves, later on.

Photo by: Kyle Van Horn

6th: Don’t measure anything. Another “no-brainer”. Some companies spell out their strategies all the way down to milestones, deliverables, resources, etc. Avoid this at all costs. Use these arguments to avoid wasteful effort:


You can’t measure what we do.” or; “Our business is different”.


7th: Do not revise the plan for any reason during the year. A lot of effort goes into strategy planning. Don’t revise your thinking just because business isn’t working out like you originally thought. How many times do you want to go through this anyway?


8th: Start over next year from scratch. When next year comes around enjoy the off-site meetings and start all over. Forget about last year.


9th: Don’t take time to plan at all. This is probably the easiest approach. After all, who has time for planning? Everybody claims they are already working as hard as they can. Should they stop working just to talk?


Some or all of the “nine ways” displayed above may be funny, may relate to somebody else’s business, or may seem all too familiar at your business. What is certain is that the wrong approach, or no approach, to strategic planning is an excellent way to reinforce “business as usual”. If however, you prefer improvement to status quo, don’t let any of the above different ways “…to make sure strategic planning fails” gain acceptance in your business.

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