The Obscurer

Month: April, 2006

My Mother Is A Fish

…and I am a Plant. But a few years ago I was a Monitor Evaluator. So has the world changed or have I changed?

I’m talking about Belbin’s Team Roles, and for the second time in my life I have filled out one of their self-perception questionnaires that in theory indicates where I should ideally fit into a company or organisation. In short the questionnaire is divided into seven sections (eg.“What I believe I can contribute to a team”) and for each section you are given several different options that could apply to you (eg. “Producing ideas is one of my natural assets”, “I can work well with a very wide range of people” etc.). You must allocate 10 points to the possible answers in each section; say 7 points to the option that you feel strongly applies to you, 3 point to an option that you feel is only partially appropriate, and no points to those options that you don’t feel are relevant at all. By following the matrix at the back of the questionnaire you can then discover your ideal role in a team, be it a Shaper, a Co-ordinator, a Resource Investigator, and so on.

So I am a Plant, which apparently meant that I am “creative, imaginative, unorthodox”. Plants “solve difficult problems”. On the other hand I “ignore incidentals” and I am “too pre-occupied to communicate effectively”. A few years ago, however, on the previous occasion that I completed the questionnaire, I was a Monitor Evaluator, which means I was “sober, strategic and discerning”, I would “see all options” and “judge accurately”, but I would also “lack the drive and ability to inspire others”. So which is the real me?

Perhaps I have changed over the intervening years; more likely I suspect that if I were to take the test several times I would each time provide some slightly different responses and so produce a slightly different result. I am not saying the test is total bollocks – I reckon I will never get the results that elevate me to the level of a Resource Investigator (extrovert, enthusiastic, communicative, explores opportunities, develops contacts) or a Shaper (challenging, dynamic, thrives on pressure, the drive and courage to overcome obstacles), they don’t sound like me at all – but I reckon it is mainly bollocks, that’s all.

Because I just don’t know what the purpose of such a survey is, other than to make lots of money for Dr. Belbin. I know what it is meant to do; ideally the test should work out each individual’s attributes and where each employee fits into the team to assist management in arranging the right mix of talents, but does it? Shouldn’t managers be able to ascertain peoples’ abilities without relying on a test such as this? My boss gushed evangelically when she passed the test out, saying to each of us that when we discovered what our team role was we would be amazed at how closely it matched how we see ourselves; but this is hardly surprising when you consider it is a selfperception survey, and so you will be answering the questions as you think you are, which may or may not tally with reality. You may have zero leadership qualities, but if you think you are a great leader then you will answer the questions as if you are Alexander The Great; you will land yourself with a leadership team role according to Belbin, so confirming your own opinion of yourself. When you bear in mind that it is a self-perception survey it would be pretty weird if your Belbin role didn’t fit with your own self-image.

I am not casting aspersions upon Dr. Belbin’s credentials, I am sure he is eminently qualified, but what is to stop someone like myself without any training in the field coming up with my own test if I wanted to? I could create a management quiz where the answers people give would mean they are divided into, oh I don’t know, sheep, goats, wolves and aspidistras; but would it necessarily mean anything? In my case it would be about as scientific as one of those “Are you a chocoholic?” quizzes in Take A Break; but that needn’t prevent it being picked up by a certain type of manager and passed on to their undeserving staff.

And I am not saying that there is no role for management theory, there are probably nuggets of good advice in all management books, and from what I have read of Dr. Belbin he makes some pertinent points, but I think a lot of management is more about common sense than the burgeoning and lucrative management theory industry would like us to believe. Things are often much simpler than people would have us imagine; for example, when I worked in a call handing centre we underwent countless changes to our “opening salutation”, to the order and style in which we answered the calls according to the latest management fad. Ultimately, though, you can theorise to your heart’s content; the best way to provide a good service on the phone is to employ competent and polite people.

Everyone seems to want to build their part. When I was doing my economics degree I reckoned that here was a social science that fancied itself as being a natural science; then when I did a post-graduate diploma in marketing I was conscious that I was studying a management discipline that aspired to being a social science, like economics. The fact is that management is far more art than science; but I guess the arts don’t pay as well. You can’t really blame the likes of Dr. Belbin for trying; but you can question the people who lap up this sort of thing.

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Wave Goodbye

A relieved cheer went up over the Quinn household last night as Syed was finally fired from The Apprentice. A few weeks ago I said I expected Sharon and Tuan to be the next ones to be sacked and expressed the concern that Syed would win the thing; in the event I was spot on about the first two but by last week I had changed my mind about Syed. We never saw his redemption as predicted by Heat magazine’s Mark Frith, but up against Ruth and Tuan in last week’s boardroom I thought I could see the writing on the wall. Syed could survive against a nonentity like Taun, but head to head against someone of Ruth’s calibre and I couldn’t see him staying, and that is how events turned out.

Week by week Syed revealed himself to be an empty vessel. His main talent, as far as I could discern, was an incompetence verging on the illegal; by not collecting the right keys when letting a flat, to claiming a car would increase in value when selling to a customer, to forgetting to write the contestant’s names on the backs of raffle tickets he had sold and then considering not entering those tickets into the draw when he realised his mistake (or rather when Ruth pointed it out to him). The only thing that Syed could say in his favour was that he was a good salesman, but even there I found him unconvincing and amateurish; only his ludicrous self-confidence helped him out, forcing him to keep going well past the point where I would have thrown in the towel, and so enabling him to get sales more by persistence and the law of averages than by genuine ability. Such perseverance is valuable, but I think it can only get you so far.

But enough about Syed; I imagine that, beyond a brief stint on the Z-list celebrity circuit we have seen the last of him and we can allow him to get down to honing his “genius”, as he intoned straight faced on last nights “The Apprentice: You’re Fired”. Two weeks left to go on The Apprentice then, and if there is any justice it will be Paul and Ruth in the final. Michelle seems like a little girl, out of her depth and lucky to be there largely by dint of having ended up on the winning side a good few times. Ansell is a bit of a wild card; he quietly gets on with things and doesn’t do much wrong so it depends upon how he does in his interview, but for me the Tulip and the Badger are the standout candidates.

When I first wrote about The Apprentice I was pretty scathing about the lot of them, damning them all and tarring each contestant with the same “business idiot” brush. Now, however, I have a lot more time and respect for Ansell, Ruth and Paul and I would be happy if any of them won, although by rights I think it should be Ruth. So The Apprentice has also been a valuable lesson for me in looking beneath the obvious, beyond my own prejudices and in judging each person as an individual. It has also boosted my readership considerably (although I doubt it will last), thanks to this link and to the numerous people searching Google for “syed apprentice” who have come this way. This post should keep that hit counter ticking along nicely thank you very much; sorry to anyone who feels I have wasted their time.

Write The Theme Tune, Sing The Theme Tune

I don’t, if I’m being honest, usually if ever watch BBC1’s offering New Tricks of a Monday night, but readjusting to British Summer Time following a weekend away in New York it was the perfect brainless nonsense to ignore while I tried to work out what time it was in the Big Apple and therefore if I was justified in feeling as tired as I did.

It wasn’t great, but it was at least an improvement on what I’d seen of American telly (24 hour news whingeing about gas prices for 24 hours) and the unwatchable BBC America (can you believe four hours of back to back Cash In The Attic interspersed with adverts for Footballers Wive$ on Saturday evening as we were getting ready to go out?).

Yes, New Tricks seemed the perfect sort of rubbish to switch your brain off to, only I couldn’t relax because I was transfixed by Dennis Waterman’s lower face. Even when he wasn’t on screen all I could think of was the way he seemed to be struggling around his mouth furniture, as he had apparently transmogrified in front of my eyes into the vicar from Dick Emery.

In fact, with this in mind, perhaps New Teeth would be a more apt title for this series?

PostScript: You will be as disappointed as me to learn that, according to the New Tricks website

The theme tune, sung by Dennis Waterman, is not commercially available, and there are no plans for it to be released.

This is upsetting. If Dennis Waterman is still so deluded, post Little Britain, that he has talents as a singer, then the least he can do is to release the song as a single and test himself in the marketplace. Perhaps he fears the customer is a little more discerning in 2006 compared with his glory days of the ‘Eighties.

PostPostScript: My foreign jaunt explains in part my failure to cover the continuing tale of Charles Clarke, but only so far, as there seems little point in me engaging in a bit of belated “me too” blogging when I have nothing to add except the obvious and many others have said all that needs to be said on the matter(s). No, this is the place for irrelevant twaddle about actors’ false teeth. Next week, when Tony Blair is arrested for a public order offence and put on an ASBO I will probably be talking about Jonathan Ross’s haircut. Stay tuned.

This Really Ragged Notion

The Euston Manifesto has caused a bit of a stir amongst bloggers; Tim Worstall is offended by it, Chris Dillow is in two minds over it, and Phil Edwards takes it to task (and uses the same source as myself for his post title).

I would spend some time discussing it myself if I saw it as anything other than a well meaning vanity project, if I thought it likely that it would resonate beyond the people who already agree with its aims, or that the world would change one iota because of the publication of this statement of principles.

But I won’t, because I don’t, because it’s not going to, because it won’t.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Jimmy McGovern was interviewed in last weekend’s Knowledge section of The Times, where he discussed his forthcoming drama series The Street which starts this Thursday.

The idea for The Street has been percolating inside McGovern’s head for years, loosely based on the street where he grew up in Kensington, Liverpool. He was the fifth of nine children of a betting shop manager and did not speak properly until he was 8, and then with a stutter.

All the writers are Scousers but McGovern did not want the dramas to be filmed in Liverpool, so tired is he of Liverpudlians complaining that they are portrayed in a bad light, so it was made in Manchester. McGovern believes it’s a “f***ing shame” that people here are so sensitive. “I’m sick of it. Every Cracker I’ve done has been based in Manchester. I’ve filled Manchester full of psychopaths, but no one there complains.”

Which I suppose could suggest a couple of things. Perhaps it is evidence that there is something in the claim that many Liverpudlians exhibit a chippy siege mentality, a persecution complex of the sort that Boris Johnson (or was it Simon Heffer?) was referring to in that infamous Spectator editorial that followed Ken Bigley’s murder.

Alternatively, it could show that Mancunians are a more dour and depressive lot, that they are just more grimly accepting of the fact that theirs is a city riddled with sickos and psychos and that they simply get on with it.

Or it could illustrate a combinations of both of these points, or none of the above, or something else entirely. I dunno.