Quick-Witted Project Management: Lessons from Classic Rock Bands

Classic Rock Bands
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  • Don’t park in front of Dunkin’ Doughnuts while in Maine! You’ll be fined!
  • Splash a pedestrian with rainwater while passing by and you can expect a fine of about $65.
  • In Manila, you are not allowed to drive on Mondays if your number plate ends in 1 or 2.

These are some of the most insane driving rules across the world. Crazy, right? But you need to follow them if you’re not willing to get a ticket or spend your night in a jail cell.

Sports teams are bound by rules of the game, corporations are constrained by bylaws. But classic rock bands don’t need any guidelines to operate.

However, surprisingly, classic rock brands have the most influential project management strategies which give them an edge over project managers to learn from them.

If you’re an Entrepreneur or a small business owner, one way to boost your productivity is to use online task management tool that can help them do more in less time.

Having said that, we can learn a lot from classic rock bands and share the management lessons with our project managers and with our colleagues.

Leaders among equals: U2

The charisma, the energy, the spotlight. Yes, you guessed it right. Bono is and will always be the show-starter for U2. But guess what. While up in the clouds, Bono is also a social justice entrepreneur.

Although the band seems tilted toward one member – Bono surely shares the lions share but when it comes to sharing the profits there are no extra royalties for the songwriters.

A practice that is uncommon among classic rock bands, this is to prevent the future friction. Even the manager Paul McGuiness also received an equal share for many years, reflecting his role in the band’s business success.

In U2 everyone acts as a CEO while they’re crafting beautiful songs, thrashing hours and hours of work, and in the process as per Bono “songwriting by accident.”

Before starting a new album, all the band members recommit themselves to the project of U2. “It’s just about asking some very simple questions: Why do you want to be in a band, and what do you want to do with it? Are our four interests served?” Bono told Billy Corgan in Live! Magazine in 1997. “Because there’s no other reason at this point for us to make a record. It gets down to corny old words like self-respect.”

Key takeaway for project managers:

As project managers, synergy is the most important lesson we can get from U2. Despite all the fame was altered towards Bono, everything was divided equally so that there is no hatred in the band.

Pecking Order: Eagles

Don Henley & Glenn Frey founded The Eagles with their values that were laser-focused on peaceful, and easy feeling music.

Every song they created reflected this idea. The public image was a carefree spirit.

Just like in the organization growth means hierarchy, and hierarchy means organizing in a fashion that increases productivity without overburdening the resources.

When Henley and Frey came to Los Angeles in the year 1960 to find a rock and toured as backup musicians to Linda Ronstadt. Two more members were added to the group. Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon, which helped the group secure a record contract.

But what started as a four-way partnership evolved into a two-tiered structure as Henley & Frey did the copywriting, other band members came and went, but Frey (who died in 2016) and Henley set the direction and reaped many of the rewards.

In an interview in the year 2014, Henley said in an interview:

“The thing about bands is you have to have leaders in a band,” he said. “Everybody can’t be on equal footing. It’s like a football team. Somebody’s got to be the quarterback.”

Key takeaway for project managers:

The Eagles succeeded because everyone knew their roles. The organizational hierarchy is extremely important. And project managers of successful organizations know that to maintain stability everyone needs to respect that hierarchy.

Chaos: Grateful Dead

As per the history in the 50’s, the Grateful Dead were the least organized and definitely very proud of themselves. With roots in the anti-authoritarian counterculture of 1960s San Francisco, the band rebelled against rules, convention, and structure.

Improvisation can work on stage, but it’s harder to pull off when the show is over. In the recent documentary Long Strange Trip, we can see the band doing sabotage attempts to promote their brand. The camera crew dosing with LSD when they toured to Europe in year 1972.

Jerry Garcia played the role of a talismanic leader, but he ran away from responsibilities. For taking the tough decisions, firing an incompetent tour manager, were delegated to others.

As the fan base grew exponentially in the year 1980, this created problems for the public safety Garcia was urged to a record a message asking fans without tickets to stay home. He demurred. “Jerry just couldn’t bring himself to do one of those,” band publicist Dennis McNally said.

But the Grateful Dead thrived despite—or, more likely, because of—their haphazard management. While other bands zealously policed bootlegged albums, the Grateful shrugged their shoulders when fans taped their concerts, reasoning that once the musicians finished playing, they no longer needed the music. The tapes circulated widely, and without intending it, the band’s inaction helped build a passionate and loyal community of Dead Heads.

Key takeaway for project managers:

One way to control all the chaos is to use an online free task management tool.  It is lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Every manager needs to know what is the direction they are going. Roles of every employee, the strengths, the weakness, and all that is going in the organization. Everything needs to be in place.

Do something unexpected: Guns N Roses

Guns N Roses’ first album “Appetite for Destruction”, is the biggest selling debut of all time. Normally when people succeed, they tend to repeat the same process. But not Guns N Roses, since they were not ordinary.

In the next album, they changed their approach completely and did something unexpected. They released an acoustic record which completely contradicted the hard rock sound they had become so well known for.

It was still Guns N Roses, but there was something new and unexpected. Your content marketing can benefit from the same strategy.

The element of surprise is a terribly underrated technique that can make your content stand out from your competitors, while at the same time exposing it beyond your initial reach and audience.

The key takeaway for project managers:

As project managers, we all need to take quick-witted decisions every day. And for that, we must rely on instincts. The best way to improve something is to use more of it. Therefore, project managers need to move away from their comfort zone and try something totally different. What if that doesn’t work? But what if it does?

To wrap up and start rolling

So, here you are! You can take lessons from the famous rock bands and make your organization more productive.