VIEWPOINT/Color me bemused
Feeling blue? Or maybe you’re feeling a little green today. In Alameda County, Calif., that sort of talk has some folks seeing red.
The trouble began nearly a year ago, when the county’s Board of Supervisors participated in a team-building exercise designed, in part, to help members stop squabbling. Assisted by a consultant using the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (a set of 120 questions developed by the late Ned Hermann, who was a management education expert for General Electric), each supervisor identified the quadrant of his/her brain that was most dominant and adopted a color denoting the results.
For example, Board President Scott Haggerty is green. Which is lucky for the board, since green denotes a brain dominated by the lower-left quadrant, manifesting in organization and administration. (Upper-left thinkers are blue and logical; upper-right yellow and imaginative; and lower-right red and social.) Of the remaining board members, two are blue, and two are red. Having revealed their true colors, they reasoned — well, at least two of them reasoned — that they were better equipped to understand one another.
Flush with newfound insight, the supervisors extended their good fortune, via consultant, to their staffs and the county administrator. By December, the color-coded colleagues — 32 people in all — were a veritable Rainbow Coalition.
Who can begrudge uncivil servants their efforts to work out their differences? Not I, who on any given day am blue, green, orange and — when a deadline is looming — purple. Nevertheless, the public mood in Alameda County turned black when The Oakland Tribune reported the consultant’s fees for conducting the workshops. Turns out, the price for peace is roughly $9,000.
Taxpayers, as well as area columnists, were dumfounded. Aren’t board members elected to represent different interests? Doesn’t that dynamic lend itself to conflict? Can mood rings be far behind? Can’t we all just get along?
“If taking the course means that I can vehemently argue with [a board member] on the dais one night and sit next to him on a plane and smile the next, then it’s worth every penny,” Haggerty told the San Francisco Chronicle recently. Spoken like a true blue supervisor.
Alameda County board members insist that personality assessment has helped them work smarter. Too bad they didn’t spend smarter; the lessons of color-coded interaction are available on VHS for $4.49 at amazon.com. Look for “Here Come the Teletubbies.”