Monday, June 07, 2010

Spots and Stripes

“Imagine that they have stripes” whispered Mark.

“What do you mean?” said Tom a little too loudly. “Who has stripes?”

“Ssh,” said Mark nodding in the direction of a group in the corner of the large conference room. “They might hear you. They are all project people, be very wary of them”

“What are you talking about?” replied Tom “Why on earth should I be wary of anybody?”

“Because they are not like us.” said Mark “We have spots and they have stripes, but don’t worry - nobody can see them.”

“You are nuts” said Tom a bit louder this time.

“Don’t worry” said Mark “It is just a little game I like to play when we have these big project meetings. Sometimes it is difficult to separate the project people from the operations people. There are those that like big, swift changes and then there are people like us who prefer to move more slowly.”

“I'm still not with you” said Tom “We are just here for a meeting, aren’t we?

“No, It's much more than that” said Mark “Decisions are being made and plans are being hatched. Expectations are being set and futures are being decided even as we take our seats in the room. You need to look more closely.”

“More closely at what?” said Tom getting frustrated “And how does having spots help me in this?”

“Don’t worry.” said Mark “They can’t see them either and it’s best not to reveal them too early.”

“Imagine that instead of this conference room in a suburb of London that you are on the plains of southern France - about 8 thousand years ago.”

“Eh ok” said Tom not sure where he was going with this.

“The various people present are divided into two main groups - spots and stripes to represent their characteristics and motivations. “

“And spots are people like us” said Tom cautiously “and they are the stripes over there?”

‘Correct’ said Mark ‘We are the farmers. We are the ones who keep this place running and we like to change things at our own pace. And the ‘stripes’ are the hunter/ gatherers. They are the ones that get excited by large projects and don’t understand our needs and motivations.”

“Really.” said Tom incredulous “You think that it goes back that far. Is that why the consultants and some of our Tech group are having coffee together?

“Perhaps” said Mark “I think that it is carried forward in our genes. But you have to look very closely. Nobody is purely spots or stripes and I also draw a distinction between the size or thickness of the spots and stripes as well.”

“It’s not as easy as I first thought” said Tom. “I must admit that it's more fun than trying to read body language and clothes for clues about their behavior. I suppose we have to be careful not to prejudge people.”

“Very true” said Mark “That's a real challenge. However I have been playing this game for many years now and it hasn't let me down yet. I've seen kids with small spots grow to adults with larger ones. And I have seen kids with thin stripes expand theirs. Sometimes I have been fooled and small spots actually merged to become thin stripes and vice versa.”

“Ok” said Tom “Let’s play the game during the meeting and see how I fare.”

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