Planners approach life in a methodical manner, building a roadmap based upon career choice. With this approach, you determine early on what you want to be and where you want to go. It may be that as a child you knew what you wanted to be when you grew up or you decided your major and what college to attend while in high school. When preparing to enter the workforce, you’re already thinking ahead – deciding which organization you want to work for, what your starting position will be and what your next step up the corporate ladder may be. You may also consider what’s an acceptable work-life balance between your career and personal interests (e.g., family or hobbies).
With your plan in place, you take a business operator approach by formulating a strategy with interim actions, goals and targets. Your life unfolds like a project with a blueprint. Your plan is constructed from the outset, and you monitor and make adjustments as you proceed. Planners are considered to be very pragmatic.
Pioneers lead the way and forge new ground. Pioneers approach life very differently than planners: Life is not a project, but rather a quest, a mission in pursuit of a purpose and cause. This approach assumes that what lies beyond the horizon may be unknowable or uncertain. You perceive that when you’re young it’s too early to commit to a career, yet you carry an innate fortitude to arrive at a destination. And once you reach your first destination, it may not be your last.
As a pioneer, you think like an entrepreneur, constantly seeking new opportunities while learning more about yourself as you grow professionally. While you aren’t hesitant to make midcourse changes, you evaluate them first to see if they suit your purpose and contribute to a cause – something that may be larger than yourself. Pioneers like to provide service.
Explorers are travelers, driven by curiosity. Life is not a project (planners) or a mission (pioneers) but rather an adventure; a voyage not for aimless wandering, but seeking answers to problems.
As an explorer, you think like a scientist or inventor. You investigate and test, formulating hypotheses to prove or disprove. Explorers like to learn and take up challenges. My guess is that explorers excel in completing crossword puzzles and card games like bridge.
Whether you’re a planner, pioneer or explorer, there are inherent risks. Planners have the least risk, but are vulnerable to stress if reality deviates too much from the plan. Pioneers risk never reaching their desired destination, and explorers may not derive enough satisfaction from solving the problems they set out to answer.
Planners, Pioneers and Explorers: How They Fit Within IT
All three personas have unique characteristics that make them great fits within IT organizations – and valued assets to their employers.
Planners may be executives who sponsor a cause and open doors for innovative ideas. Or, they may be craftspeople with consulting skills, perhaps designing systems for strategy maps, scorecards, dashboards, profitability reporting and analysis, customer intelligence or driver-based planning and budgets.
Pioneers are likely to be champions who drive change, for example, motivating a coalition of like-minded thinkers to embrace enterprise performance management solutions. Pioneers are not settlers who permanently establish a fixed position or place; they keep seeking challenges, determining where they are and where they should go next in order to affect change.
Explorers can be analysts, behaving like free agents seeking hidden opportunities. Experienced analysts hypothesize two or more things are related or may suspect, based on data analysis, that some underlying factor is driving behavior. They realize gaining insights is not like searching for diamonds in a coal mine and you cannot flog data until it confesses. They seek easy, flexible data access with the ability to manipulate it. Explorers want to discover insights to act upon, but also thrive on the learning process along the way.
IT’s Need for Diverse Thinking
Regardless of the way an individual approaches life, it takes all kinds of people for an organization to be successful. Diversity fuels creativity. It helps trigger new ideas and their results – music, apps, books, smart phones or pharmaceutical drugs.
IT systems can be transactional (invoicing or ERP), managerial (strategy scorecards, resource planning) or analytical for decision-making (borrower credit scoring, demand forecasting). The best outcomes for IT systems begin with creative ideas from divergent thinking and conclude with convergent thinking as the best ideas congeal. If a team of users and IT share mastery in just one area, they may not have the skill breadth and agility to challenge each other mentally in creating and advancing a fresh idea.
The bottom line: IT organizations thrive when they have a mix of planners, pioneers and explorers. If I organized a team to construct an IT system or address a problem, I’d select some of each - planners for special skills and leadership, pioneers to champion and drive change and explorers to make meaning out of the muddle.
Gary Cokins is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC, an advisory firm. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker and author in advanced cost management and performance improvement systems previously a principal consultant with SAS. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of Cokins' unique look at the world, visit his website at www.garycokins.com.