Sir Alex Ferguson’s Orchestral Management Style

Poor David Moyes. Some would say he was doomed to fail, following in the footsteps of a football manager like Sir Alex Ferguson who was more legend than real by the end of his term at Manchester United Football Club.


But perhaps Moyes could have learned, as Ferguson did, from the way the orchestra work together as a team, and saved his job at one of the world’s most successful football teams.

Ferguson gave a presentation at Harvard Business School a couple of years ago, where he told this story:

“I remember going to see Andrea Bocelli, the opera singer. I had never been to a classical concert in my life. But I am watching this and thinking about the co-ordination and the teamwork — one starts and one stops, just fantastic. So I spoke to my players about the orchestra — how they are a  perfect team. You can get help from some of the players. Bryan Robson, for example, was brilliant.”


For Ferguson, teamwork was everything. And the team didn’t just consist of the players. It was him, the coaches, the owners, and the fans. To Ferguson, the team ethic is everything. Though he was known for encouraging and seeking out individual  brilliance, especially from the club’s own youth team, he also had a reputation for not tolerating anything or  anyone who acted like they were bigger or more important than the team.

This is the orchestra ethic from start to finish. If one instrument, or even one section, begins to play as if it’s all about them, and not about the performance as a whole, the whole performance fails. But when conductor, strings, brass, percussion, and woodwind, all work together, they create a magnificent whole. The kind of teamwork that wins football teams accolades, and businesses success.