Management and Organizational Behavior Analysis

How a Military Unit is like a Symphony

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The parallels between a military unit and a symphony are many, especially when the aspects of how both function as living organisms that must stay internally synchronized yet interact with other entities to survive and thrive. The essence of any effective organization is the ability to stay agile enough to respond to internal needs but me stable enough to integrate with other organizational organisms (Schneider, 2000). The intent of this analysis is to evaluate how each of these organizational organisms are comparable to each other.

Comparing a Military Unit and Symphony

Both have unique organizational structures that define their cultures, all supporting their mission, values and objectives. For the military unit, the small span of control within battalions, platoons and in the smallest unit, squads, defines how closely aligned each role in the organism must be to these guiding factors of mission and objectives. Comparably structured yet with a broader span of control, symphonies also have organizational structures that are specifically designed to enable each section to be at once unified yet separate enough to complete their tasks. This loose-tight coupling of a structure is essential for the socio-economic value of any organizational organism to be attained (Allee, 2009). In addition, this structure is also critically important for creating the necessary agility and resilience that gives the organization the ability to withstand significant change over time (Noruzi, Hernandez, 2010).

Both military units and symphonies need to anticipate change and devise approaches to enabling greater internal synchronization within departments as well. A symphony creates value and gains critical acclaim for how well the conductor and managers can create a very high level of synchronization or synergy. The same holds true for a military officer and their ability to create cooperation, collaboration and a consistent response organism wide to the goals and objectives of the unit. The most galvanizing aspects of these two organizations is that both can earn accolades on how well diverse teams are orchestrated and have a real-time level of communication and trust that translates into accomplishment. Trust that permeates an organizational culture acts as an accelerator, a catalyst of unification and consistency (Schneider, 2000). Without trust, organisms implode and often face atrophy as they will not have the ability to be fueled by interactions and input of fresh ideas.

The socio-economic aspects of each organization are nearly identical as well. For the military unit, the defining of specific rank, role and responsibility is the critical catalyst in the structure that makes integrative tasks accomplishable, leading to synergy across the organization. For the musician, their role, responsibility and status as defined by chair in the symphony is also the catalyst of how well synergy of effort can take place. The socio-economic value of each of these organizations is entirely dependent on how well, to the individual role, responsibility and mastery level, each contributor is prepared to deliver values and coordinate efforts. The ability of an organization to become a living system is dependent on how well the roles, responsibilities, expectations and position in the internal ecosystem are defined (Allee, 2009). The leaders of these comparable organizations have a responsibility to enable a consistently high level of autonomy, mastery and purpose for each member of these living organisms so they may continue to be motivated to improve and gain expertise in their areas of expertise (Noruzi, Hernandez, 2010). This requirement is so critical that it would be indistinguishable if a military officer and conductor were conducting a review of performances of their respective organizations.

Another parallel between these organizations is the fact both are entirely dependent on external support to survive. Both organisms need to stay relevant to those support organizations that make their attainment of objectives possible. For the military unit the funding is from their respective national government. Their performance within a broader corps will however dictate the level of funding they receive. For the symphony, the same holds true yet the socio-economic value of each musician and their contribution to the combined performance is immediate and monetized as a result.


There are many parallels between a military unit and a symphony and this analysis has looked at the main aspects of their similarities. Both must be focused on how the structure and communication, collaboration and synchronization of tasks affect their cultures. Both rely on external organisms to survive and must deliver value in order to stay in a strong, broader ecosystem over time.


Verna Allee. (2009). Value-creating networks: organizational issues and challenges. The Learning Organization, 16(6), 427-442.

Noruzi, M., & Hernandez, J.. (2010). An Exploration of Partnerships, Coalitions, Sole and Trans-organizational Systems in the Current Turbulent Environment. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 2(1), 33-53.

William E. Schneider. (2000). Why good management ideas fail: the neglected power of organizational culture. Strategy & Leadership, 28(1), 24-29.