O is for Being A Good Orchestrator


Orchestrators play a key role in organisations. They often start by clarifying the outcomes to achieve. They then orchestrate the available resources to achieve the desired outcomes.

One area in which they do this is by bridging the gap between originators and operators. Originators want to create new ideas; operators want to translate ideas into action. The only problem is that sometimes these two groups speak different languages and find it hard to work together.

Orchestrators start by clarifying the outcomes that the operators want to achieve. They then go to the originators and, through various means, encourage them to deliver these requirements.

Such orchestrators co-ordinate people’s efforts. They make things happen and produce the required results for the organisation. Here are some ideas to consider if you want to be an orchestrator.

Discover whether you
enjoy being an orchestrator

Orchestration can be rewarding, but it can also be tiring. So the first thing to do is to decide if you want to play this role.

Do you enjoy being an orchestrator? One way to find out is to look back and explore the satisfying projects in your life.

These can be ‘projects’ in the broadest sense of the word. Looking at these projects, have you got a pattern of bringing people together to produce positive results? Is this something you find fulfilling?

One person answered these questions in the following way.

“Looking back, I realise that I love bringing different groups of people together to achieve a common goal.

“I have managed a rock band, organised voluntary work overseas and captained the local cricket team.

“Nowadays I am a project director. Providing people commit themselves to achieving the goal, I can harness their talents to do great work.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. It invites you to do the following things.

Describe a time in the past when you acted as an orchestrator and also found it satisfying.

Describe the specific things you did right then – the principles you followed – to be a good orchestrator.

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Decide on a project where
you want to be an orchestrator

Imagine that you want to be an orchestrator. One approach is to play a full-time orchestration role in an organisation. Another approach is to apply your orchestration skills to particular projects.

Let’s assume that you want to explore the second route. You will probably get the most satisfaction by applying yourself to the right kind of project with the right people in the right place.

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Make sure you choose a stimulating project that has a reasonable chance of achieving the picture of success.


Make sure the people involved are choosing to opt-into the project and are prepared to work hard to achieve the picture of success.


Make sure the project is in the right place – the culture and environment – that fits your working style and will contribute to achieving the picture of success.

Where to find such a project? The way this normally works is:

To keep in contact with people in your network, especially those who you would enjoy working with in the future.

To ask about the challenges they face, the projects that need starting, developing or completing, and how these projects can help the organisation to achieve success.

To, in an appropriate way, provide ideas about how the projects might be landed successfully.

This obviously has to be done in an encouraging way, because the key is to help the potential sponsor to be successful. It is not actually to promote yourself.

Paradoxically, however, you will find that eventually somebody says: “How can we take this further?”

You will then be in a position to set the project up to succeed. It is vital to get the right balance between accountability, autonomy and authority.

You will be accountable to 10/10. So you must have autonomy and authority to at least 8/10. You will need the brief and mandate to make things happen successfully.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific kind of project where you would find it satisfying to be an orchestrator.

Describe the specific things you can do to find or create such a project.

Describe the specific things you can then do to ensure the project is set up to succeed.

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Doing what is required to be a good
orchestrator and deliver success

Imagine that you want to be an orchestrator. How can you ensure the project delivers success?

One approach is to find and follow your own successful patterns. Earlier you recalled a time when you orchestrated something successfully.

What did you do right then? What were the principles you followed? How can you follow these principles – plus maybe add other skills – to deliver the next project successfully?

You may also want to gather ideas from other orchestrators. Warren Bennis and Patricia Bierderman highlight some of these skills in their book Organizing Genius: The secrets of creative collaboration. They believe that:

“Every great group has a strong leader. This is one of the paradoxes of creative collaboration.

“Great groups are made up of people with rare gifts working together as equals. Yet in virtually every one there is one person who acts as maestro, organizing the genius of the others.

“He or she is a pragmatic dreamer, a person with an original but attainable vision. Ironically, the leader is able to realize his or her dream only if others are free to do exceptional work.”


Warren and Patricia found that great groups have certain characteristics. People believe they are on a compelling mission.

They have a dream with a deadline. They have the right people in the right places. They collaborate brilliantly to reach their goals. Great groups ‘ship’.

How can you do this in your own way? Good orchestrators develop their individual styles of making things work. The journey can be both frustrating and joyful. But it can be immensely satisfying to enable people to channel their talents towards achieving a positive goal.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Let’s assume you have settled on a stimulating project.

Describe the specific project you want to orchestrate.

Describe the specific things you can do to orchestrate the project successfully.

Describe the benefits of delivering the project successfully.

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