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Perfect Work
High Performance Lessons from Symphony Orchestra
Aldo Fabrizi & James M. Wilson III, PhD

Forthcoming 2022

“Perfect Work” examines the conditions that give rise to the excellence of human collaborative performance as demonstrated by symphony orchestras.


We find that the conditions for this excellence are clear and repeatable given the long history of successful symphonic performances.  We find that innovative musical compositions, selection of highly trained individuals, rehearsal by an expert conductor, clear directions in the musical scores, clear roles within the orchestra, and guidance by the conductor during the performance lead to this reliable excellence.


Can other organizations learn from the symphony orchestra, or are the conditions for that excellence so extreme as to be irrelevant?  Complaints about the orchestra are that it is elite, and too autocratic and there is no room for musicians to innovate within its structure.  Is this true?


“Perfect Work” takes on these complaints, and uses the conditions that give rise to the traditional symphony orchestras, and then gathers two additional case studies of other orchestras:  the democratically organized “Orpheus Chamber Orchestra” where there is no conductor, and the “Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra” where anyone with any skill level can join.


An analysis and critique and comparison of these three kinds of orchestras gives rise to a set of durable factors that inform organizing and leadership for all organizations. 


We state these findings within the polarity of excellence versus accommodation, and provide a means to both diagnose organizational conditions, and offer some clarity about what is possible in terms of organizational performance. 


Further, we reflect on the broader implications of the excellence-accommodation framework in terms of all governance.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Design

Chapter 2: Clarity of Purpose

Chapter 3: Resources

Chapter 4: Organization

Chapter 5: Information Flow

Chapter 6: Leadership

Chapter 7: Philosophy

Chapter 8: How to Attain Perfect Work - Implementing the Six Pillars

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