Order and Harmony

In his book “Radical Wholeness” Phillip Shepherd introduces the idea that order and harmony are not actually a pair, they are opposites.  

In Mary Poppins, the original, Mr. Banks sings:

A British bank is run with precision
A British home requires nothing less
Tradition, discipline and rules
Must be the tools
Without them: disorder, catastrophe, anarchy
In short, you have a ghastly mess!

Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins

Yet the moral of the Mary Poppins story is that Mr. Banks needs to loosen up to allow harmony and love into his home.

When we try to impose control to create ‘order’ we are actually breaking harmony.  Harmony is more ‘allowed’ than created. By removing the things that block harmony, you allow harmony to emerge.

As I help transition clients into “new ways of working”,  I am continually challenged by people’s need to see new things through old lenses.  One of these lenses is that of “order and control”. Many organizations are challenged in giving up the need for  “order and control.” There is a deep belief in the corporate world that order and control will lead to harmony.

Think about your workplace.  Is there an example of a process that is getting in the way of harmony? Perhaps you have a rocky relationship with another department, where it seems difficult to get any work done when you need to engage with them. Is your relationship measured by SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and governed by policies?  What if you removed all those “controls” and simply collaborated with them as human beings?

When I ask questions like this, my clients get really nervous.  They say “What! How will I know if they are going to get the work done?  They could just ignore us and refuse to do any work if we don’t have any rules in place!!!”  I respond “They could. But is that likely? Don’t they work for this same company, whose success inextricably linked to your own?”

What about reports?  What if we can’t track progress?  How do we know if we’re on track? Scary in a world of order and control.  Not quite as scary in a world of harmony.

Brain Twist:  Find a single process at work that is blocking harmony.  See what happens if you dismantle that process, even if it’s just temporary.  Can you allow harmony to emerge in the absence of order?