The 60 Percent Rule

For a shared identity to work, it is useful to know who is, and who is not, part of the group. This is sometimes quite clear, but quite often it isn’t. It can happen that people have different definitions of what the identity is and who belongs to it. This need not be a problem, as long as people know this of each other.

Even more, the fuzziness of boundaries, and conflicting ideas of membership, can actually help a group be creative. (Dare I mention ProductOwner-in-or-outside-team?) As long as people are aware of different perspectives and opinions, and know how to deal with it, the fuzzy boundaries can be turned into an advantage.

However, when a person is a member of multiple groups where the identities appear to be of the same kind, and on the same level (two teams, or two departments, or two organizations), it is probably smart for her to choose one primary identity. For example, it is hard to be a fan of two football clubs in equal measure. And people with two nationalities usually lean more towards one than the other.

This reminds me of the famous question:

“If you have two nationalities, which country will you cheer for, when the two national teams play against each other?”

I live in both Brussels and in Rotterdam. But I call only one of those cities my real home. (I will let you guess which one.) I like both Star Trek and Star Wars, but when it comes to a head-to-head between Data and C3PO I know who gets my support. For people in organizations it is the same, they prefer to have one team to cheer for.

60 percent color

I’ve heard some coaches suggest a 60% rule: everyone should spend 60% of their time on the same team, the same department, or the same organization. The rest of their time they can spend working for others.

How about you? Do you have one team (or one home city) to cheer for?

Identitysymbols-front-frame-miniThis text is part of Identity Symbols, a Management 3.0 Workout article. Read more here.

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  • Oliver Finker

    I wholeheartedly agree with you when it comes to shared affiliations. I was born in Poland, grew up in Austria and moved to Germany. When it comes to football, my interest is mostly about Germany (although, strangely, I want them to do well until they reach a final and then lose out, how cruel!), when it’s about other kinds of sports, I support Austrians most. Often enough I am clueless whether I see myself as more Austrian or German; luckily enough, this southern part of Germany offers for me the perfect middle ground: in Bavaria, being Austrian counts as basically Bavarian anyway, so I don’t even have to answer the question.
    Professionally, it’s often the same. On several occasions I had to fulfill two roles or responsibilities at once, sometimes they were even conflicting with each other. It was simply not possible to do both in a satisfying way (although nobody believed me, instead they wanted to dump a third and fourth one on me) and subconsciously, I most certainly made a choice to prefer one over the other. In retrospect, I should have made this clear to everyone involved where my priorities were.

  • Mark Michaelis

    Thanks for this post. You teased me with the Star Wars/Star Trek image as I am also fan of both of them. But you really got me when reading about the “team to cheer for”.
    We have several Scrum Teams in development, and it’s my sometimes unfortunate, but most of the time rewarding task to switch teams every now and then. My experience is that each team tends to build its own culture, its own rituals. And is there a team I would cheer for? Yes, I think so – but nevertheless I liked and like every team I visited – because they are so special.

  • Doug Bell

    For this all , Mobile applications can work well for this rule to support.

  • Herose

    Seems like the “Subscribe to my mailing list” links to a 404 page.

  • Jurgen Appelo

    I fixed the problem.
    Thanks for reporting this!

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