Sum Of All Parts


 

The Sum
Of All Parts

[Start by
waving hands in the air. Side to side]

How many of you realize
what that is? For those who didn’t , that was a part of a Mexican
wave. A Mexican wave is a movement performed by sports audiences one
tier at a time, by standing and waving and yelling, then sitting
down, with the next tier doing the same, in a sequence. I was once
part of a Mexican Wave , a long time back at Wimbledon in 1997. It
was People’s Sunday, Center Court and I was watching Tim Henman
versus Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands. The rain kept coming
intermittently and during one of the rain breaks, the tier opposite
me exploded into action waving, standing and yelling. Then the next
tier and then my tier and I were doing the same. But while being part
of the Mexican wave is fun, you do not see the visual effect. Its
just a lot of noise. Later that evening when I caught the highlights
on television, the Mexican wave was exposed in all its glory , with a
birds eye view of the undulating wave movement. It was beautiful!

Fellow Toast Masters and
Guests, the whole can be much more than just the sum of its parts.

The Whole can be much
more Than Just The Mere Sum Of Its Parts!
How many of you agree
with this statement? And you are not at all wrong. Indeed, you are
in elite company.
You have just hit upon the underlying
principle behind an exciting branch of science called quantum
mechanics
. Now , quantum mechanics and its applications is an
interesting and deep topic. I do not profess to be well-versed in its
intricacies and neither do I intend to use this time to strive and
enlighten you. You may be even more in the dark , if I try.

A single
term that would describe the whole being more than the sum of its
parts is holistic. However, the whole being more than the sum
of its parts does not hold just in a branch of physics. We can see
its applicability in our daily lives as well.

To give
you an example, the Indian cricket team is made up of 11 players.
Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni,
Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Munaf Patel. Each of
them have an assigned role to play; they each do their part and
contribute to the team’s efforts. On their day, some more than the
others
. But without the gelling of the team as a unit, they would
just remain individual achievers and team success would be an elusive
grail.
The synergy achieved and the strategy employed makes for a
well-oiled machine. A machine that can beat all-comers.

Another
example of synergy achieved that makes the whole more than the mere
sum of its parts is our ToastMasters meet every Sunday. Each of us
have a role to play ; Can you help me with the various roles? The
sergeant-at-arms, the toastmaster of the day, the table topics
master, the grammarian, the ah-counter, the timer, the prepared
speakers, the general evaluator and the evaluators, the table topic
participants, the guests and last but not the least, Jeetu. Here too
the whole , when the parts fall into place smoothly, make for an
enjoyable , memorable experience. Who , among us, would claim that
just he or she is wholly responsible for the success of the meet?

So, it is
with firms. How many of you are familiar with Michael Porter’s
description of the value chain as a source of competitive advantage?

A
value chain is a chain of activities.
Products pass through all
activities of the chain in order and at each activity the product
gains some value. The chain of activities gives the products more
added value than the sum of the values added in each activity.

For
example, with a diamond manufacturer, first you receive the rough
stones, these are cut shaped and polished into diamonds, these are
then stored in warehouses and then sent to distributors, or end-users
such as jewelery makers and finally a product is provided such as a
diamond ring, /earrings  or necklace. At each step in the chain,
value is added but the final value is much more than the intrinsic
value of the stone at the start of the chain. So again the whole is
more than the sum of its parts. The synergy achieved creates much
more value for the customer.

Similarly
with the software development process; the process consists of first
eliciting the requirements, analyzing the requirements, a feasibility
study , an architecture that will meet the requirements, the design
, implementation and coding with unit testing. Finally integration
testing and delivery followed by production deployment and finally
maintenance. Now each activity in the process adds value but the
value created by the whole set of activities is much more than the
value added at each step in the process. So again the whole is more
than the mere sum of its parts.

So what does this teach
us? It teaches us that when we put aside our egos, our pride and
acknowledge that we are all cogs in the machinery called the
universe, that we are insignificant in the face of eternity, only
then can we acknowledge that we need to learn to live with each
other, for each other . And the microcosms where we can achieve this
synergy are 2 fold; At home , it is the family. At work, it is the
immediate team within which we do our part. When each role is played
well, then only can we find things running like clockwork. Teamwork
is the most rudimentary form of people synergy , where we achieve
more than the sum of its parts would. A good team can achieve great
things; a not-so-good team with great people will still fail!

So pull the yoke, shine on
and NEVER, NEVER forget to shine the spotlight on your fellow!

A quick link to Quantum Mechanics

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