Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Observations of Great Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil

ImageLast weekend I attended the Cirque Du Soleil show, Amaluna. While most of the audience was mesmerized by the beauty and awesomeness of the feats, I was mesmerized by the demonstration of what great teamwork can accomplish. Here is a quick run-down of my observations on the benefits of great teamwork.

Trust in Others

The troupe is truly putting their lives in each other’s hands. With high-flying acrobatics and water stunts, the impact of something going wrong can truly be life threatening. It takes a huge amount of confidence to entrust your life into your co-workers hands, but the results are astounding.  When thinking of who needs to trust whom, it goes beyond other performers who are putting their safety at risk, but also the engineers and riggers.

What could you accomplish in your current project if you had that much faith and trust in your teammates? Would the project have better flow and less resistance? Do you give your teammates the trust they deserve? We are each experts in our own rights of our own domain. Trust in that and keep conversations on using the various areas of expertise to achieving the goals of the project. Identify underlying issues to deal with the root cause to address team members you believe not to be trustworthy.

Slips happen…recovery gracefully!

Don’t think for a second that every show goes off without a hitch. I saw a couple of “slips” (some obvious, others not) and am sure I missed many more. What keeps the show amazing is the graceful recovery. The most obvious slip I noticed, the performer just kept going and tried again. She succeeded and the audience was amazed. Other slips were covered by their team performers adjusting their movements to minimize the impact on the show, the performers, and keep the show entertaining for the crowd.

We often experience slips in projects. Maybe there is a slip in schedule, defects in code, or risks that turn into issues. It is okay. Our project plans help us decide the graceful recovery in advance. There may be an unforeseen issue that affects the project. The issue is what is it is. Focus on the graceful recovery in support of the project. Refer to point number one and trust that your teammates will contribute to the graceful recovery.

Here is a quick side note. The music in Amaluna was live. It would be very difficult to recovery gracefully if reliant on a soundtrack that prevented needed corrections.

Be Trustworthy

Bad things happen when you are not trustworthy. A performer in Amaluna would not feel safe to give a 100% on feat where their safety was in my hands and I’m not trustworthy. I may lose opportunities to perform. The show would lose a great deal of awesomeness with the troupe not trusting in each other to give 100%. Signing up to perform a feat that one is not ready for, performing when physically compromised, or not being reliable in showing up for rehearsal could destroy valuable trust and compromise the show.

Are you trustworthy when it comes to your projects? Do you make meetings on time, participate fairly, complete assignments as agreed? Do you refrain from gossip, always give honest status on the project, and help your teammate recover from their slips? The person who can do this with integrity, consistently will be a very important contributor to the project. Only when all teammates, including yourself, are trustworthy will you have the level of trust needed to pull off amazing acts. It is the rare project that is delivered on time, on budget, and with promised scope that brings value to the business…a truly amazing feat.

Here is a short promo video of Amaluna to amaze you. A fourth secret follows.

Amaluna Promo Video

A fourth observation? Yes, risk management. Telling you this is admitting to what a nerd I truly am.  The video shows the scene with the contortionist in the water splashing all around. My mind realized that water on stage could be deadly to those that follow her act. Brilliant risk management is at work here.

  1. Large cloths blanked the stage around the bowl.
  2. After they moved the bowl and blankets, they had performers performing wiping the stage down with towels
  3. The next act was the high wire, not conducted directly on stage but the high wire with cushions below
  4. Then intermission

Four strategies to mitigate the risk of water on the stage endangering the performers.

Please share your stories and thoughts on what makes for amazing teamwork.

Photo by Cirque du Soleil at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/amaluna/default.aspx

4 responses to “Observations of Great Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil

  1. Pingback: Three Secrets of Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil | #PMChat

  2. Pingback: Observations of Great Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil | #PMChat

  3. furmanjeff March 10, 2013 at 11:12 am

    That’s a nice way to do risk management: “Performers performing wiping the stage down with towels” (a metaphor for all PMs doing RM!)

  4. Pingback: Three Secrets of Teamwork from Cirque Du Soleil

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