It’s around this time of year that your elderly relatives start scanning the TV schedules to see if anyone’s re-running ‘that’ Morecambe and Wise Christmas special from 1971.
The fact the programme will be 51 years old this year only makes it more likely they’ll howl with laughter when it gets to the familiar punchline.
‘You’re playing all the wrong notes!’, cries renowned classical conductor André Previn, as Eric Morecambe’s shambolic pianist sabotages his orchestra’s performance of a Grieg concerto.
‘I’m playing all the right notes,’ Morecambe defends himself. ‘Just not necessarily in the right order.’
That’s how communication often feels inside a business.
In theory, everyone is aiming in the same direction and talking about the same priorities. But, in reality, there’s often a massive amount of dissonance, as different parts of the business emphasise different messages – or articulate them in very different ways: with clip-art graphics, clunky language, ‘fun’ fonts and a homemade logo.
Clients sometimes look blankly at me when I point this out. They can’t understand why I’m taking it so seriously. I mean, it’s not like customers will ever see this stuff, right? Surely what matters is that people are getting on board with the messages? If the gist is right, where’s the harm if some of the execution is a bit amateur or inconsistent?
And the answer is that there’s no harm at all, if you don’t care that your Grieg concerto sounds like a music-hall comedy.
If the only thing that matters is that you’re playing the right notes.
And not whether the resulting noise makes any sense to the audience.