There are many different metaphors used to describe Project Managers. So many in fact that you may have cause to ask What the Hell is project Management, Anyway?

Project Management metaphors

Some of the most common metaphors used include:

While some of the more obscure metaphors include:

Another of the most common metaphors for Project Manager is that of Conductor.  This is is particularly powerful metaphor for top notch Project Management. Consider the Conductors role.


The key characteristics of the Conductor are:

Conducting Orchestra

Sets the pace and rhythm of the performance.

Guides a team of highly-skilled specialists in each instrument.

Does not play any instruments themselves.


Now let’s compare this to the One-man band.

One-man band

The key characteristics of the One-man band are:


Sets the pace and rhythm of the performance.

Tries to be a specialist in each instrument.

Plays all instruments themselves.






It’s quite obvious that the Conductor will produce a much superior performance than that of the One-man band. The great conductors conduct. Period. They don’t run around and play every instrument on stage.  They don’t profess to be an expert in every instrument. And they certainly wouldn’t dream of telling each member of the orchestra how to play their individual instrument (in which they are an expert).

This One-man band approach is wrong in some many ways, including:

Stick to what you know best

I’d hate to think how many times I’ve seen a Project Manager get involved in areas outside of their expertise. Making key decisions in areas such as user-interface design, solutions architecture and even business process design. Another name for this is micromanagement and this seems to be most prevalent with Project Managers who have come from a technical background.

Any of us, including yours truly, can be guilty of falling into this trap.  One way to avoid this is for Project Managers, and Scrum Masters, to ask themselves every day: Am I being the Conductor, or am I trying to be the One-man band?