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Are Your Project Team Members Too Much Alike? If They Are From Texas, They Might Be

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 8/20/2011

As we dive deeper into the 2012 race for president, I realized there have been four Presidents from Texas and how that relates to group-think as far as project teams. If your project team members are too similar, how big can your idea pool be? Or, are your teams in a sameness slump?

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    The Lone Star State

    It seems as far back as I can remember, we had Presidents from Texas—Lyndon Johnson, Dwight Eisenhower and both George and his son, the “W” hailed from the Lone Star State. Now the Republican Governor of Texas, Rick Perry has entered the 2012 race for the US Top Job. If he wins the election, that would make five presidents all from the state where everything is big. They love their BBQ and what they fondly call “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys.

    Of the four from Texas, only one was a Democrat—Lyndon Johnson. The others are of the Republican persuasion. Did all these men have similar ideas, meaning they already determined their method on how to rule this great land before gaining a glimpse at the Lincoln bedroom? If Rick Perry wins, will he have the same ideas because if you hail from Texas (much like any other state), you’re proud to the core?

    They say you can drive all day and never get out of Texas, but I suppose that depends on where your starting point is. If you start in Brownsville Texas, you can be in Mexico real quick! Texans are also fond of saying how big everything is. Look at the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium built by owner Jerry Jones—that’s huge! So huge in fact that in February of 2011 when the Super Bowl was held there and the Dallas weather was unusually cold, the drain on the natural gas needed to heat up Texas left some of New Mexico out in the cold, literally.

    I hail from Pittsburgh and although I now live in Austin Texas, I do feel some of the “burg” is still inside me. Not just that I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates and Penguins but my values and ideals started there. Although as I grew up some may have changed a little, I’m still a Pittsburgher at heart.

    If I were a project manager born, in say, Waco Texas and my entire project team was from Waco, how diverse would we be? Would we always agree? We probably all live in the same sort of houses and if we were all born in Waco, wouldn’t we all think alike? Would we all fall into groupthink?

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    Texas President

    As I mentioned before, only Johnson was a Democrat from Texas (it’s known as a Red state). Johnson was the everyman’s presidential type. He hailed from one of the poorest places in Texas at the time and grew up near the Pedernales River in Stonewall. He fought hard for votes, had some tough run-ins and received the top job after that fateful day in Dallas when the world lost JFK. Of all these presidents, it’s important to note here Johnson did sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and this big Texas tough guy really didn’t take much crap from anyone. He was his own man.

    The other three, Eisenhower and the Georges had a more privileged lifestyle, I think. Both Bush Senior and Junior went to Yale and Eisenhower was spit out of West Point, became a top dog in the military—a hero really—before landing the top job. The current governor in the race, Perry graduated from Texas A&M—not a bad school—and grew up in the rural farm area of Paint Creek where his parents, according to his website, “provided a modest upbringing” quite different from Eisenhower, and Senior and Junior.

    So we’ve had a blue collar president in Johnson, three on the more wealthy side with Eisenhower, Bush and Bush and now enters Perry—a man more like Johnson if you only compare their wealth and status growing up.

    All of these presidents were of the Protestant faith—Perry’s really into his Methodist faith which falls under the Protestant umbrella. Because I am Catholic, I sort of look at these five men as waspy types as far as religion is concerned.

    So, we’ve got this brief (although not even close to scientific) look at these five men, but if we threw them all on a project team would they tend to agree or disagree? Would they think the same Texas-big thoughts? Would their religions push their ideas?

    I think if a team of Pittsburghers was put in the same room—all with blue collar ideals—not much new would happen from project to project and the same would be evident with these five team members of Texas.

    Diversity breeds innovation—that we know for sure from the success of global project teams. A same-minded, same-state-born team would indeed be boring, too agreeing, and always unimaginative. Projects would start the same, be run the same, meetings wouldn’t offer much new other than the standard and consistently used status report.

    Brainstorming sessions would be run by the top Republican forcing the others to become fixated on one idea—but that’s okay because no one in this group has had a new idea in quite some time.

    Sure the lonely Democrat may try and argue his point, but he’d be lost and give up once the filibustering started. In fact, he’d most likely quit the team and move to a blue state—off the project, carry on without me.

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    The Best Teams

    No matter what political party you identify with, every four years when the presidential race comes around, there really isn’t anything new. Sure some new slogans may pop up—“yes we can” and now Rick Perry’s “get America back to work,” but all those are just that, slogans. There are promises for change but once the new leader reaches the top spot, he (or perhaps maybe a she someday I hope) is cut down by the old traditionalists of the House and Senate. Any newbie president really has to learn the real rules of Washington beyond just looking and sounding pretty.

    If you want your team to be creative, you better deliver on diversity, various personalities, generations and skill levels. If you don’t, you’ll wind up with my Presidential Texas Team and quite frankly, they are opaque and boring.

    Could you improve this Texas team or do you agree diversity and different ideas are key in developing the best teams? Personally this vanilla-flavored team seems too far gone, but then again, I’m a fan of rocky road.