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  • Gregorian chant for tech part 2: just because it sounds easy, doesn’t mean it is easy

    September 28, 2017 | Teamwork
  • I taught Gregorian chant classes and retreats for over a decade. Very regularly, enthusiastic new students would show up, exclaiming, “I just love Gregorian chant! It makes me so peaceful and happy, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to learn to sing it.”

    After a few hours of workshopping, I would often hear these same people saying, “wow, that was a lot more difficult than I expected!” Because the truth is, singing chant together with other people – while it certainly has its blissful moments – takes a lot of focus and concentration. It’s hard to stay in tune, it’s hard to manage the breath, it’s hard to stay coordinated with others. Keeping the language (especially if it’s Latin!) coordinated with the melody can be quite a challenge too. If, on top of that, you’re trying to achieve that state of restful bliss you experienced when you’ve listened to chant in the past – well, then that’s just so much more stress.

    Assuming the work someone else is doing is easier than it is (like those aspiring chanters) is common and not surprising. I’ve worked for many years helping business and technology teams collaborate, and it’s a common problem. There are lots of subtleties and nuances in any task that only become visible once you are inside it. But it’s potentially corrosive: when someone starts asking “how hard can x be?” (where x=business process management, bug fix, design work, setting up a server, etc.) – we’re on the first step to the team disharmony and a lot of potential wrong notes. Humility and empathy (good monastic virtues) are good starting points to avoiding this pitfall. If team members can take a few hours to sit with someone from a different function and better understand the hidden complexities of their world, so much the better.