The Power of Affinity

agile-scrum-boardAlthough there are a number of things that behavioral instruments and tools can identify, qualify, and quantify in terms of individual personality and team dynamics there are always factors that inevitably feed into the overarching patterns that may ultimately emerge.

These things are incredibly difficult to measure and determine, if not altogether impossible. And sometimes we’re acutely aware of them and other times they are simply a fabric of our everyday lives and we think nothing of them – but their impact is tried and true.

We call this group of factors that are difficult to measure and determine affinity and it’s comprised of three core elements: Leadership, Environment, and Culture.

What the natural consequence of expressly strong affinity in teams and organizations, especially ones that are self-organized and orchestrated, is that their are unique and near-tangible bonds are appreciated and leveraged for incredible team performance.

For example, there may exist even in your context a strong “bond” and relational tie to certain team members more than others and there doesn’t appear to be an easy quantifiable valuation of why it exists. It’s often expressed something like:

Well, I just know that we work well together – I can’t explain it really, it just works.

This is typically due to those three core elements:

1. Leadership

It can be difficult to measure leadership impact and effectiveness in quantifiable terms – it’s not something you can just stack up against a rubric and say definitely that X person is going to be an incredible “leader” or that Y person is an incredible leader because of Z factors.

But we all know, intuitively, who is and who isn’t an incredible leader and our instrument can showcase a few dominant patterns that may arise naturally.

But ultimately the leadership of a company, of a team, can form around incredible leadership, despite obvious dysfunction and extremely disparate personalities and interests. For example, an incredible leader with an obvious gift of leadership can rally people together that might never otherwise associate with each other to fulfill an incredible mission or vision.

Collectively the work of affinity as seen in leadership is at work. The A&I process can uncover this distinctly and even enhance it’s performance long-term, but it’s an oftentimes unexplainable (yet emotive and felt) value that people corral around.

2. Environment

Environment is an additional part of affinity that can be difficult to pinpoint and qualify. For example, some geographic regions attract a certain type of temperament and personality more than others. Sociologists and anthropologists study this, by definition, and they could provide incredible insight as to the explicit details of the why and how this occurs, but we know it’s impact and presence.

It can be also be interpreted through a “light” lens of preconception, prejudice, or even stereotype to help glean out what is underneath. We may presume that those that live in the hot and dry-heat environment of the California in fact like that environment and we may even ascribe values and ethics into the mix.

The environment can even suggest things as practical style of dress, certain dispositions to particular value systems, and even political perspectives. These may play a minor or major role in team formations.

For example, you may have an idea of “who” someone is when they say they develop software for a startup and live in Silicon Valley – and what environment they have chosen to live in and the people they have chosen to work with. The A&I process can uncover the influence styles of those individuals just fine but we want to contextualize the results wisely with the environment that we find those people in.

3. Culture

There are few things more powerful than culture – it has influenced perspective and started World Wars. It has done incredible good and has been used (known or unknown to the person) for incalculable harm.

These things can bring teams together and be the “glue” that binds them strongly helping them manage expectations and different personalities and aptitudes well. It fills the gap through trust and mutual understanding whereas in other contexts, where culture is not tightly shared, it may be filled with suspicion.

This is why we may see occasionally in the news articles about incredible high performance teams with staff that are from the same culture and have the same affinity – we’ll see news about incredible teams doing incredible work and where all of the staff come from an Irish-Catholic descent (or another faith-based and socio-historical culture). Or we’ll see powerhouse teams who are comprised mainly (or totally) of the same family ties and bonds.

That’s where we see affinity active and working. Work is done despite apparent communication differences and action styles. That’s why we’ll see via reality TV family-run businesses that should, for nearly every reason imaginable, completely fail and yet they have their own TV show, they are financially thriving at an alarming rate, and have incredible influence despite obvious and apparent dysfunction.

The power of affinity cannot be mistaken – so that’s why we take the time to learn about the culture, the context, and even more before we begin to implement our process and assessment. It’s critical to at least be cognizant of these dynamics at play before we can ever hope to have an incredible impact.

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