Organisational Harmony

If the purpose of your organisation were to make music, what kind of music would you make?

Who would play which instruments?

Is the tune you are currently playing popular with your audience? If not, what needs to change?

Are your colleagues ‘singing from the same hymn sheet?’ If not, who has the right tune, and how can you learn from them?

Playing together

Musicians get together and play music, sometimes they rehearse together sometimes separately, but there is usually an expectation of performance to follow. In an orchestra they will have the score, which equate to a strategy, which gives them their own role in the great scheme. When playing a particular passage there is understanding of the start and finish and how what they are doing fits into the whole work, because they have the score. Individual players or groups of players take separate themes, which from time to time, come together, but the themes are in harmony with each other.

If you don’t have all the parts of the score, or no score at all, what an individual is playing doesn’t automatically make sense, the person playing the individual part understands it, the people close to them may, but beyond that possibly not.

In smaller groups playing less traditional music, improvisation may be encouraged or expected. When musicians interpret the music for themselves and innovate you get variations on a theme, grace notes and unexpected tangents which bring individuality to the role. These can spark off a further improvisation in someone/anyone else, but only if they are listening.

You have your role, and it can be done to perfection but if you aren’t listening to what’s happening elsewhere you can be half a beat out, or in the wrong key and it’s a disaster. This makes life difficult for your colleagues because they have to speed up or down, or tune up or down to keep in step with you

Working together can be jamming and harmonising. Everyone can take a turn at leading or starring, and is allowed to have their moment, even in some classical music scores.

What’s your style?

What is the place of the organisation in the world?

Smaller go-getting companies are like jazz bands; large corporations are more like orchestras.

Musicians choose and train to play a particular instrument, and chooses the kind of music they have a preference for playing – even in orchestra music Baroque is different from Romance is different from 21st century classical, all played by orchestras, but the style is very different; chamber orchestras are much smaller than symphony orchestras, jazz, rock and folk groups tend to be even smaller (although not necessarily!) and there are always the singer song writers who could be equated to the sole traders. There is a niche for all styles of music; some of those niches are incredibly small.

What part do you play?

Who is the leader in a musical environment?


In an orchestra someone needs to be conducting- but that is co-ordination, not necessarily leading. Traditionally the leader of an orchestra is first violin, and the orchestra hire a conductor. In jazz and rock this role can be taken by anyone, although musically you could argue that the rhythm section and especially the drummer is the coordinator.


The soloist or singer can be a leader of a kind at least temporarily, and often producing something completely different to the rest of the musicians, but always complementing what they do.


Is your organisation led by the response of the audience? Are the audience your customers, shareholders, or your board?


And what about in a 4-piece band? The leader might be the singer, the guitarist, or the lyricist… You may choose to share leadership, or you may need to be very clear who is in charge.

What kind of instrument are you?

Wind instruments and singers (flute, trumpet, etc) equate to the head- and tend to be thinkers, talkers, and planners.

Within this what are you…Tuba, or piccolo?

String instruments (violin, guitar, etc) equate to the heart and nerves and tend to be caring, emotional, helpers.

Within this what are you…Double bass, or ukulele?

Percussion instruments (drums, piano etc) equate to the guts and tend to be steady, bottom line organisers.

Within this what are you… Kettledrum, or triangle?

Can you be lots of different instruments?

Do you want to be a different instrument than you are now?

How would it be if you were?

Which part of your organisation is which part of the orchestra?

Who is it you can’t hear?

Which team or individual is the drum beat?

Which team or individual is the tinkling bell – you do notice when its there, just not very often.

Where you have too many people with same skill set or where is there something missing- you may not have a drum, or not have any woodwind- but that might be ok if you are a string quartet.

What if in the middle of an orchestra you have a jazz saxophonist (Think of the credits for The Simpsons!!)

What’s the score?

A conducting score shows the part every individual has to play, it covers the depth of complexity that the conductor executive should actually look at; the conductor executive has to pay attention to what everyone has to do.

Only the conductor has the full score, individual scores might be pages of nothing but rests, followed by lots of activity, and then further rest.

How often does your conductor executive show your organisation the whole score?

The tune your organisation plays

Your tune might have major (happy) and minor (sad) keys and themes. It might be loud or soft, fast or slow, it might change from one to the other over time, it might rise to a crescendo at busy times of year, or towards the end of a project.

Do you believe you know how to play the tune? ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’. How do you do it? What does it sound like from outside your team or organisation?

Do you or your team play the main melody or the harmony, or the rhythm, or just the occasional emphasis? If your contribution weren’t there would the tune still work?

And at the end, the audience applaud.

Companies rarely remember to celebrate their successes and give credit to their colleagues.

Without exception, musicians acknowledge each other’s contribution while accepting applause. They understand that you hear what you have done, know what people’s contribution is and you know you did it together.

copyright Cherry Potts, Change from Choice 2007

With thanks to Miha Pogacnik whose talk at St. Luke’s for the LBF got me thinking about this.

About Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a publisher/editor. fiction writer and teacher, event organiser, photographer, book designer, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She sings for fun. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.
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