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Are You In A Rabbit Warren Or A Helicopter?

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

It takes all types to make up a successful business. I have a number of clients where one of the top team is the ideas person and there are others who make things happen. I’ve always been intrigued by what makes these relationships successful – or fraught with difficulty.

A while ago I was chatting with my wife, Pam, about her work. She is a University Lecturer and Consultant in Quantitative Statistical Methodology which is a very academic field. Put simply it’s about getting detailed, accurate, meaningful and useful information from very large numbers of people.

We were discussing how meticulous and specific her work is compared to what I do. While I usually have only a few bullet points on my workshop slides she has dense algebraic formula with masses of compact text, and literally hundreds of pages of complex handouts. It comes with the territory because Academics love all the details. Without them there can be serious flaws in thinking, and in Pam’s field that can potentially have a very serious impact on a nation’s economic or social policy.

Not only is her work very specific, it is also very procedural. Everything has a correct sequence: one step must follow the next. If an initial stage is not done properly it can have a profound impact on the data, so accurate analysis and interpretation may become impossible. The more I learn about her field, the more I realise that a lot of the statistics that drive various policies are not nearly as accurate as they should be!

Balancing specifics with opportunities

Having someone with a strong desire to get the procedures right, and to make sure that all the particulars are covered is important in some contexts, while in others you need the opposite.

For example in management, especially in the context of running a small or medium-sized business, things rarely go according to plan and you need to have the flexibility in thinking to deal with a wide range of people and their various needs. If things are not working you need to look at the big picture and come up with alternative ways of achieving the desired results.

On the other hand, the strengths of a methodological approach with a keen eye for the minutiae will mean that you negotiate good heads of terms and other contractual issues. You will also do what is required to ensure a fair and lawful disciplinary hearing or dismissal. It’s very frustrating to have to defend yourself in a tribunal just because you didn’t follow the basics of the statutory requirements.

But when it comes to changing your approach to sales and marketing or customer service due to the shifting economic climate, or you need to rapidly find a new member of staff due to a resignation, becoming bogged down in policy and procedure can lead to missed opportunities.  In order to take advantage of opportunities you need to be able to zoom out, take an overview and rapidly develop a number of options. It’s interesting to note, that this level of flexibility and creativity is often difficult for people with a strong motivational preference for following procedures and paying attention to the details, because they want to find ‘the right way’ and take all the specifics into consideration. They strive for perfection.

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