The benefits of true collaboration

Adeline Teoh ed.
July 25, 2016

The art of composing music doesn’t seem to have very many direct links to project management but it can teach us about collaborative outcomes.

I followed the chime of a Japanese cymbal through the labyrinthine warehouse, trying to find the source. Drums started up, and then stopped. There was low talking behind one of the many doors. But which one? Thirty seconds later the cymbal chimed once more and I was able to pick the right room. I clumsily slid open the door to the rehearsal space of Taikoz, the Australian Japanese drumming group.

Taikoz artistic director Ian Cleworth had kindly allowed me to sit in on an early rehearsal of the group’s latest production, Chi Udaka, presented in partnership with Indian dance company Lingalayam. Japanese drumming and Indian dancing may seem an odd combination, but Cleworth’s and Lingalayam choreographer Anandavalli’s creative expertise and flexible thinking made it possible.

What surprised me, though, was that the Taikoz rehearsal was less of a rehearsal and more of a collaborative composition session. While composer Cleworth had a clear structure for the music, the individual notes and beats had not yet settled. The performers, all playing different instruments, contributed as much to the development of the final product as he did.

It reminded me of a session I went to at the AIPM National Conference a couple of years ago on standards in project management. Presenter Mark Heath talked about the ‘jazz method’, where project management should have a standard approach, but project management itself should not be standardised.

Taikoz’s approach had its boundaries: certain phrasing that the dancers could recognise and dance to. But within that was plenty of room to create and change the music based on the strengths of each performer. The overall effect was a better piece and stronger buy-in from the musicians. I wonder how many project managers do this with a skilled team?

Author avatar
Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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