Once many years ago, I learned to play the Church organ. I had assumed that by doing this, I would be leading the hymn singing.
After many months of practice, I was under supervision while playing at my first service. I waited with trepidation for the feedback.
“Technically, that was very good,” my tutor told me. “But you’re not listening.”
I was astounded. What did I have to listen for? I was there to play the music at the requested time.
It was then explained that I had entered a complex scenario. The organist is seldom seen, and most people are only aware of him/her when the music starts. The preacher is the coordinator. He specifies which hymn is to be sung – how many verses –and everybody should perform as one.
But does the organist lead or follow? I was told that a good organist followed the singers: he listened – understood to play to their comfort. The correct speed was neither too fast nor too slow, but what the congregation was happy with.
We have probably all been either forced to jog along with an organist at high-speed or mourn lugubriously when something is played too slowly. So we understand where this is coming from.
Now, let’s say that, in the NHS, the organist has the Managerial role, and the congregation are the clinicians.
Both have received messages but there is no co-ordinator.
Their target is the same: to choose something comforting. The organist( Manager’s) choice is: “The Lord’s my shepherd”. The congregation,(Clinicians), after consultation, go for “Amazing Grace”.
They are both doing what is asked of them – but it cannot be done in concert. It causes friction.
So the congregation have to wait until the organist is finished to do what they perceived as being needed. Then it requires to be done as a sole endeavour – so it is much more demanding. It feels as if, although the best effort is made – it is still unsupported, unsatisfying and frustrating.
The “organist” feels that the “congregation” have refused to join in. The piece was played beautifully – the mission, as he understood it, accomplished.
The “congregation” meanwhile, feel that they had no option but to perform unsupported. In their opinion, the organist played the wrong music, so there were several false starts while they all tried to find a common key. It was so much more work, and it caused resentment.
But who was to blame?
Was it the organist or the congregation?
Or was it the lack of a co-ordinator to give specific instructions so that the two could work effectively together?
So, I came across this video, of innovation and joint working, and it struck me that although the music in this piece is very complex, you do not see a leader. You do not see anyone co-ordinating.
It is seamless. Everyone understands exactly what do do and when to do it.
Where is the co-ordinator in the NHS?
Where is the person who can understand, listen and sympathetically work with both parties? Who can bring reconciliation?
Is it true that a leader is only seen when needed?
Who can restore the harmony?
© Linda Jane McLean