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WaterShapes LogotypeBy Eric Herman

'The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime.'
                                                                                                                            -- Babe Ruth

How many watershaping projects are completed by just one person – no laborers, no help in moving materials, no extra backs or pairs of hands at all?  If you set aside the assortment of do-it-yourself kits for inexpensive pools, off-the-shelf ponds and streams or small decorative fountains, my suspicion is that watershaping, as practiced by professionals, is almost invariably a team effort.

I suspect further that this is why there are so many specialists who hover around watershapers, including, for any given project, outsiders such as landscape architects, landscape designers or pool-design consultants as well as structural engineers, geologists, nursery consultants, arborists, contractors, subcontractors, product manufacturers and distributors.  And there are, quite often, other “team members” in the decision-making chain, among them homebuilders, architects, developers, property managers, interior designers, fine artists and, lest we forget the most important of them all, the clients.

Given that few projects could ever have a scale or scope so small that an army of one might get the job done, you’d think teamwork would be a natural way of life for watershapers – but that’s not generally the case.  Indeed, I’ve found in my years of talking with professionals at all levels of the watershaping trades that working as part of a team is often much easier said than done.

No doubt part of that aversion to ready cooperation results from the rugged individualism that characterizes so many of you:  After all, making allowances for other people similarly inclined to do things their own ways is never easy.  The other factor that makes working on a team so tough is that being a good team member is, in many respects, a separate expertise – yet another skill that needs to be understood, embraced and practiced.

As is often the case with features we present in the magazine, the teamwork concept surfaces as a recurring theme in otherwise unrelated stories in this issue, and it won’t take much concentration on your part to pick up those threads and follow them through.  In one case, however – “Role Players” by Dominic Shaw (click here) – the article is specifically about teamwork, how a task is defined and how players are assembled to bring a vision to life.  

Along the way, Shaw offers razor-sharp insights into the distinctions that should be weighed in assembling a team, specifically in this case for design and construction of high-end fountain projects.  As a former consultant who has also spent time as a supplier and design/build expert and now works for EDAW, a giant landscape-architecture firm that assembles ad-hoc teams for specific projects, he has tremendous, first-hand experience of team dynamics from top to bottom.

His article is interesting not just for defining the nature of watershape consultancy, but also for how much light he sheds on the importance of understanding the skills and motivations of a project’s team members in helping a team work together to get the job done to its fullest possible potential.

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