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Tribes have flags. You see the flag, you know it’s that specific tribe.
Speedy walk and a pile of folders under the arm? You know it’s the Tribe of The Busy Bodies.
Moleskine notebook and other totemic gadgets? Nomadic. Mobile. Prepared. Yeah.
Once you start looking for flags and tribes, you’ll see them every where.
For those who are not directly hardwired to my brain (Hi!), some clarification. A flag for me represents a visible element of a culture that identifies that culture and the people part of the culture. Culture is encoded by a system of shared symbolic constructs. When I talk about “flags”, I am talking about these things. (Going to add it immediately to the glossary.)
Labels are also flags.
Agile. Lean. Project management. Excuse me. Traditional PM.
Sailing under the Agile flag means you are against Taylorism. For some.
If people are trying to put a positive spin on Taylorism under the Agile flag, they are basically stealing the flag. Not good. For some.
Language and labels are flags. Codification of culture.
Once you start viewing online discussions like this, you go nuts.
The Gantt chart as a symbol of professionalism? Remember?
These symbols can be copied.
At the beginning of this year I wrote about bootstrapping, the art of revealing a culture. A culture is bootstrapped by imitation. One person starts a thing and when enough people start copying it, start doing it, it becomes part of the culture.
Flags make it for a culture possible to be copied.
A culture is transferable. It can move from one group to another and change slightly.
This is a very famous movie clip about one guy that starts doing a funny dance. After a while somebody joins him. And after a couple of minutes he has a very large group following his behavior.
This is how it works.
In temporary tribes, bootstrapping means you are searching for flags.
You throw stuff to a wall and see what sticks.