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Rock’n’Roll and Brown M&Ms – A Lesson for Project Managers | Video

Rock'n'Roll and Brown M&Ms - A Lesson for Project Managers | Video

One of the most famous stories in the mythology of Rock’n’Roll is about Van Halen and the brown M&Ms. What was it all about? And what lesson does it hold for Project Managers?

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Van Halen

Van Halen was a legendary 1980s rock band that toured with epic amounts of kit. Each tour was a mammoth project. Heck, each gig was a huge project, with get-in and get-out times of 8-10 hours.

…and the Brown M&Ms

But the mythology doesn’t end there.

Have you heard the story of front-man Dave Lee Roth’s insistence on the catering rider? (A rider is a specific add-on to the contract)

Buried in all the contractual nitty-gritty was this line, in capitals:


And the penalty was forfeiture of the contract at full cost!

The Brown M&Ms Myth of Rock’n’Roll Grew

Especially when Roth deliberately trashed green rooms if there were brown M&Ms in the bowl. (A ‘green room’ is where the performers relax before and after a concert).

The Real Reason for the Brown M&Ms Clause

…is good project management.

In Project Management, we look for leading indicators of problems ahead. This was his. Inattention to detail means problems. The huge technical contract rider is a checklist of everything the promotor needed to do to make the concert work… and safely.

One mistake, and lives could be lost. They were dealing with huge kit and high-power electrics.

Hear David Lee Roth tell the story on YouTube.

I love this story because…

Checklists are the best way to avoid mistakes

…if you follow them.

Two quotes from Atul Gawande, in his book, ‘The Checklist Manifesto’:

In emergency situations, even the most expert practitioners can make any range of mistakes that result from inattention or bypassing steps that they deem to be nonessential.

Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto

Checklists seem to provide a protection against such failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification, but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance.

Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto

Project Management Checklists

A Solid Toolset to Give You High Confidence of Project Success

Get 30% off the price of our Project Management Checklists with this link.

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Check out the Kit a Project Manager needs

Note that the links are affiliated.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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