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Imperfect Harmony


Perfect Harmony. I’ve used the term. I’m not sure if it’s an actual appraisal or a grandiose ideal, aspirational value or lofty pursuit. When I think of perfect harmony, I think about vocal bands, like the Second Chapter of acts or Take Six or Manhattan Transfer or Pentatonics or a variety of sibling groups who sound so deliciously harmonious and blend so amazingly well.


But perfect implies flawless. Unmarred. Wholly and completely true. Pure. Unmixed. Without fault. Utterly perfect and symmetrical. No room for error. And I wonder if, whenever it is achieved, it could ever be sustained, or consistent. Please excuse my skepticism, but it feels a bit like dreaming the impossible dream. It might be possible for others, but everybody I know and associate with is more fallible and less perfect. Thus, perfect harmony seems like a pipe dream.


Harmony has to do with association and interaction of sound in a way that is pleasing to the ear of the listener. And I can relate to this word more freely because it allows for dissonance and variance. Harmony includes concord, discord, suspensions, tensions, and releases. In my mind, true harmony is not the same as groupthink or leading from an echo chamber where the only voice I hear is either mine or a reflection of mine. What makes it rich is the diversity, complexity, and meaningful interplay between the voices. Harmony is as important to organizations as it is to musical groups.


Perhaps a better goal or ideal is imperfect harmony. I mean, if you add my voice to your singing group, you will get less than perfection, for sure. And the best teams seem to have quite the mix of uniqueness, variety, diversity, and different vantage points. Achieving alignment on great teams is much more like herding cats than getting your ducks in a row. Collaboration and teamwork are messy. There are no perfect processes or perfect solutions. The harmony isn’t perfect. But for my money, the imperfect harmony we experience as we ‘play’ or work together is perfectly fine.


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