Let's not go overboard on swimlanes [groan] but please allow me one brief follow-up to my colleague's insights on how the orchestral score illustrates the genius of the Nimbus Storyboard and the limitations of swimlanes.
The orchestral score solves a problem that is similar to the problem of how to represent business process.
The score provides a common language that enables a wide range of instruments working together in real time to create the musical effect that reflects the intentions of the composer and delights the audience.
Process provides a common language that enables people working together in real time to create products that reflect the intentions of the corporate strategy and delight the customer.
But it's a even richer metaphor than that [and I'd be delighted to publish here your own inspirations on this theme]. I've used the example of the orchestral score as a way of making a different point: about the importance of version control and the value of having a single source of truth, in this article published last summer, which you might find amusing:
The lights dimmed, the audience quieted in response — and you step towards the rostrum. It was an extraordinary honor for you, an amateur conductor and a 'mere' business CEO, to be invited to do a cameo with the Vienna Philharmonic.
It was a simple piece, of course, an early Mozart piano concerto, featuring a young Chinese pianist. But snow at O’Hare had cancelled two days of flights, so there had been no time for any rehearsals at all. Gulp — you lift the white baton to gather the orchestra. It was now or never. Hell, this was more nerve-wracking than any investor presentation.
But really, what could go wrong? You knew the piece intimately. You had even conducted it before. And the Vienna Philharmonic musicians were among the world’s finest. So relax and enjoy.
It was in the second bar when you realized something was awry. The orchestra was going faster than you’d ever imagined.
It came crashing into your head that they were using the revised October 1782 score, while you had the original September 1781 score in front of you. Never mind — maybe you could still get through this.
The orchestra built raggedly toward the entry of the soloist, their eyes looking at you in increasing bewilderment, wondering why your arms were off-beat.
You turned to introduce the pianist. She played from memory, of course. It was half a bar later that you realized that she was performing Mozart’s later revision of this work — his January 1783 score, which was much the same, except for the revised timpani line.
The music careered along, jumping and spluttering like a car with water in the tank. Maybe it was OK for an amateur — you might just make it to the end.
But not much can survive when the timpanist is confused. The cacophony grew. Only true grit could save the day. You waved and pummeled the air, and pulled them through into the final bar — and silence.
First one clap, then another, then spreading around the hall — until, finally, tumultuous applause. You bowed, amazed, and left the podium.
In the wings, you overheard a radio presenter gushing into his microphone: “A stunning new interpretation of Mozart in the style of Philip Glass, the radical American minimalist composer…”
A miraculous survival — again. Yet as you headed back for a final bow — and definitely no encore — your thoughts turned inexplicably to work.
How well were your own teams performing? Weren't similarly talented heroics required far too often, because everyone had a slightly different view of the playbook? How much better could your company be if your people’s skills were better orchestrated?
But you had just put a process improvement project on the back burner. It hadn't seemed that important to get globally consistent processes and documents delivered real-time to all staff.
As you bowed before the tumultuous applause, you vowed to give it the attention it deserved. Hey, you might even get the Europeans onto the same page, at last.
~ reprinted with permission, the IT Cutter Journal, May 2010
1 Feb 2011 Swimlanes and Storyboards