Pachelbel’s Canon in PPT


Here we take a detour from our focus on the pure intersection of sustainability and project management.

Or do we?  You be the judge.

When I was in University a long, long, long time ago, I had a course in “Music Appreciation”.  It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.  We had to learn the characteristics of music as it developed from the 1500s through the 1900s.  For our quizzes and exams, the professor would play a piece of music (only a few seconds) and we would have to determine the composer, the year, the style, and so forth.  It was a memorable course and I still (all these years later) can usually tag a piece of music to within 50 years or so after hearing only a few notes.

In any case, during this class, near the start, if I remember correctly, the professor played a piece of music, asking us after playing it, to raise our hands if we really enjoyed it.  He then asked us to leave our hands up if we were studying engineering or science.  The correlation was amazing.  The piece, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, was particularly favored by the technically-minded people.

He explained that this was due (at least in part) to the way the piece was constructed.  Overall, it has a very basic pattern that is repeated in music all the time – A-B-A form.  It introduces a theme – very simply – then embellishes and elaborates on it, reaching a crescendo, and then relaxes, simplifies, and returns to the original introductory theme.  So logical, so symmetrical.  The left-brainers love it.  Not only the left-brainers, but indeed the left-brainers do love it.  So you will catch at least that audience if you compose music in this way.

So what-the-baroque does this have to do with project management?

Bear with me.

Projects are run by project managers.  Project managers often do not have direct authority over the people working on their team.  Right?  So they often have to “sell” the project to their team.  They also often have to “sell” the project to their managers, and they have to “sell” their customers and clients on the need to control scope and properly manage change.  And if you believe EarthPM, they have to sell a variety of stakeholders on the long-term operation of the project and the relation of that long-term to the planning and execution of the project.

So you get the idea – like it or not there is selling in project management.

Okay, you say, I still don’t get the connection.  I know…be patient.

  • So one one hand we have this Project Manager with a need to  “sell”, which is a form of communication, I hope you’d agree.  And creating a PowerPoint presentation (today’s most common way of “selling” ideas) is not totally unlike composing music.
  • And on the other hand we have Pachelbel who ha created this piece of music with a very alluring format for technical folks.

So (and here is the connection), if we need to sell to technical people, we may want to consider the format of Pachelbel’s Canon in D for the presentation.

Introduce the theme, clearly, crisply, simply.

Grow it, embellish it, provide just enough detail for the intent of the presentation and for the particular audience.  Then bring the detail level down, repeat the original theme (message) reinforcing it as a  takeaway message.

So we’d like to send you off to the YouTube video below, have you listen carefully, and then go create a powerful PowerPoint presentation about how project managers must take sustainability into consideration when they manage their projects.  See?  I told you we could eventually make the full connection!