The Critical Doer Is Committed To Thinking And Doing
A friend of mine named Kristina suggested I take a look at management guru Peter Drucker’s seminal book The Effective Executive as chapter 1 in particular has strong ties to the philosophy of a critical doer. Kristina is a critical doer so she ought to know…and she was right. But as I went into the rabbit hole, I discovered it went much deeper than I thought.
Commitment to thinking and doing is the first trait of a critical doer. Peter Drucker uses the term “effectiveness” to describe the same concept. In chapter 1, Drucker says “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.” He further amplifies with an anecdote from manufacturing where he says that an idea doesn’t produce a quality pair of shoes…a skilled worker does that. The quality pair of shoes is the result of an effective leader figuring out the right thing to do and communicating that to a worker who can bring the idea to life. Sounds swell…but it gets sticky.
Drucker also points out that the ratio of “knowledge workers” to laborers has decreased…and far more now than the trend he observed when he penned his book well over 30 years ago. As the ratio has contracted, my observation is that our culture is devolving into factions called “thinkers” and “doers.” This is counter to critical doer philosophy and any organization, culture, family, or individual that allows this fracture to occur has made a choice to enter a death spiral from which recovery is difficult…here’s why.
Author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a bestseller called Blink where he introduced us to the concept of “thin slicing” which he generally defines as a process of making quick decisions based upon minimal information. In building his case, Gladwell cites the work of John Gottman, a psychologist who specializes in marriage counseling. Gottman defined four reactions between married couples that he called “the four horsemen.” One of the horsemen, according to the book, is rarely recoverable…contempt.
When thinking and doing are segregated, contempt is inevitable. The group called thinkers will begin to view the doers as less important…and with that comes diminished respect. The doers conversely gain contempt for the thinkers because they seem disconnected from the practical side of business where effectiveness is ultimately judged.
If you’re not sure if this condition exists in your organization, here are some ways to find out. One of the first signs is chronic resistance to change based upon no evidence other than change is different. Next, ask your executive leadership a few questions like…the last time you visited where the production work is actually done, the name of key production folks and some details about their families, their education, etc., if you’ve ever actually tried doing their job to see the enterprise from their point of view. To the folks in production, you may ask…what is our mission statement, priorities, the most effective thing we’ve done to address “quality of work”, do you know anything personally about the executives?
In the course of conversation, you can see just like John Gottman whether there is a hard schism in your organization and if it has festered into contempt. If you see that, evidence suggests you should move to fix it quickly or polish up your resume`.
The questions in the previous paragraph can also be the compass that points you toward restoring the union between thinking and doing. Communication is vital and your strategic communication plan must adequately explain strategy, define how everyone contributes, and make everyone an owner of the result. Crossflow amongst the work force is also highly effective…walking a mile in someone else’s shoes fosters communications, breaks down false perceptions, and turns contempt into camaraderie. Celebrating the heroes is also highly effective in that it shows thinking, taken to completion by doing, is rewarded. A critical doer can be rewarded for a new idea that is brought into production…or an innovative way to accomplish a production step more efficiently that gives a competitive advantage.
Critical doers, now comes that hard part with this challenge. A critical look in the mirror can be difficult, but it’s the only way to drive meaningful change. If you see contempt between thinkers and doers or even worse feel that way yourself, the hard truth is…you are failing in your leadership role. Take steps today to close the gap so that every member of your organization, although they have different jobs, is united in commitment to thinking and doing. It was first said in the Bible and President Lincoln made these words enduring in our nation’s history…”a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The accountability is yours, and if you’re a critical doer you won’t pine away that “somebody should do something.” The ball is in your court…go play the game. It’s what a critical doer would…do!
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