Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Team Building Quotes and the Shrek Test

Earlier today I typed into Google "team building", just to see where my company's website is now in that list, and noticed for the first time that one of the suggestions that Google offered once I had got past typing "team" was "team building quotes".

It got me thinking of my own favourite self quote on team building and I wondered how it measured up to the others that are out there. Time for some research then, but first let me put mine up for scrutiny:

"A team is one in which the whole is greater than the sum of the parts"

So there's mine then. Implicit in it is the possibility that the whole could be less than the sum of the parts. That, for me, suggests that is the way that team members work together that determines how effective it is.

To paraphrase what Shrek said to Donkey in the first of the Shrek films, good quotes are like onions in that they have layers. So mine passes my own test. Well, Shrek's test to put credit where it is due.

To the research. The most listed quote that I could find was also the one that makes most people roll their eyes when they hear it. "There's no 'I' in team". So hated is this quote that almost everyone at least thinks, if not says out loud, the response "but there is a 'me' in it".

Hmmm. So it has definitely has layers but they are not beneficial ones. This prompted me to alter the Shrek test. It is not enough for the quote to have layers, the layers must add to the sentiment rather than simply exist or be detrimental to it.

"None of us is as smart as all of us" from Ken Blanchard, co-author of the excellent "The One Minute Manager", is a great quote. But how does it fare on the newly adjusted Shrek test? Well, for me, sorry Ken but it doesn't.

It's a wysiwyg quote - what you see is what you get. Direct, to the point, immediately evocative of the point it is trying to make. As a team building quote it succeeds splendidly. But layers? No. I don't need to think further to improve my understanding of it.

W Edwards Deming, father of Statistical Process Control and much credited for the revival of Japan after World War II, is attributed to a quote on the other end of the length scale - "What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for individual competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis."

I love the Blanchard quote, despite if failing the Shrek test, because it is succinct and makes a great point superbly. I have equal if not greater admiration for Dening and his work, but this quote just doesn't do it for me.

It doesn't need layers - it has sufficient detail and even complexity within the quote itself. I'm also not sure that I believe it is all good advice, though the majority within the quote certainly is. For example I disagree with the inference that competition within organisations is a bad thing.

It needs to be managed to avoid it becoming detrimental, but I see competition between teams within an organisation as a positive force. The Deming quote not only fails the Shrek test, it also isn't one I can wholeheartedly get behind.

Believe it or not, I really struggled after that to find quotes that were genuinely about teams. I found loads that were on pages that purported to be about teams but were actually about individuals or about winning or about individuals winning. I found plenty of motivational quotes from the likes of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs for teams but not really about teams.

So there you have it. My quote is the only one that passes the (totally subjective) Shrek test as adjusted in the research for this article. I'd welcome comments on this article. Especially if they are able to refute my findings and add genuine, Shrek-happy team building quotes to my current list of one. It'd be nice to have a proper list.

By : Alan_Hunt

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