The Meaning of Models

I was asked to read a few articles for a dialog seminar with my friends at KnowIt in Göteborg.

The first one described the nine team roles of Belbin. It says some people behave like Shapers, or Resource Investigators, or Implementors, or Specialists, etc… I recognized myself in all of them, depending on the context. I sometimes have been a Monitor Evaluator and a Complete Finisher, but I can also be a Teamworker or a Co-ordinator. And on the terrible train ride to Göteborg yesterday I felt more like a Plant. Are these categories of behaviors supposed to mean anything for me? I can’t decide.

5dysfunctionsThe next document described the five dysfunctions of a team. It depicts a hierarchical model of organizational behaviors. At the bottom it all starts with Trust, followed by Conflict. On the way to the top we find Commitment and Accountability, ultimately culminating in Results. But I could agree to any order of these. Why does trust come before results? I trust people more after they deliver results. And why does accountability depend on commitment? I feel more committed when others have shown accountability. Am I living in an upside-down world? I don’t know.

There were several other documents with boxes and arrows, definitions and categories, quadrants and matrices, circles and pyramids, and they didn’t mean much to me.

I’m a bit tired of such models, I noticed.

I’ve probably seen too many.

ValvehandbookBut then I read Valve’s Handbook for New Employees. I liked this document much better! It had stories, illustrations, and metaphors. And humor! For me it made much more sense than any amount of boxes and arrows. The handbook perfectly illustrates what kinds of behaviors the people at Valve need from their employees, without putting them in boxes. It explains how trust and results go hand in hand. And no pyramids anywhere!

And the handbook was created by the people themselves.

I could see that it means a lot to them.


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