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Strategic Alignment: The Importance of Marching to the Same Beat

My favorite part of a college football game is over before the starting coin toss. What I go for is to see the spectacular pre-game performance of the marching band. I am consistently amazed at the sights and sounds of hundreds of people playing music in sync and moving fluidly in perfect coordination. Simultaneously, the band will perform an energizing tune, revving up the fans for the upcoming game, along with creating a mesmerizing visual sight of various shapes and patterns as they move around the field.

Beyond the pure entertainment factor, I am fascinated with what it takes to successfully pull off such an intricate and delightful performance. Upon some observation, reflection, and a bit of research on how marching bands work, here are some things I have gleaned:

The whole performance is greater than the sum of each part. The band is comprised of complementary sections to woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Together, they create a perfect harmony.

A consistent tempo keeps everyone in line. With whistles and batons, the band leader and drum majors set the tune of the music and tempo of the movements. It is these leaders who keep the players in step and make the performance come together.

A playbook gets everyone performing the right role. Each of the band members is given a drill book that depicts the formation that the whole band will create and the individual steps he or she has to take as part. For the most professional marching bands, the performers will practice up to four hundred hours for every minute of performance to get each step and note perfect.

Translating this into a business context is straightforward. It makes me wonder whether our organization has this kind of discipline and coordination? What beat is our team marching to and are we keeping a consistent tempo?  What is our playbook and does everyone know what steps to take?

To get a sense of what I am referring to, have a look at this video below (at 1:40 Superman saves a falling building and at 4:35 Harry Potter takes flight across the field):

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