We’ve seen frequently how all groups and teams – including yours – comprises people who have one of three default leadership/management styles: that of a Visionary, an Operator or a Processor (click on any of the links to see more).For any group or team, the interactions between these three styles is the key to success or failure – get ’em working together, and you’ll achieve success; fail, and, well, you can probably finish that sentence pretty easily without my help.
The ways in which these three visceral style can clash are many, but one of the most draining for all concerned is the difference in time perception.
The Visionary – cruising around like an interceptor drone at 30,000 feet – sees everything from an elevated position. For them, getting from (a) to (b) seems like a near-trifle (when you’re traveling at 400mph, that’s not surprising).
The Operator on the other hand, has to deal with the realities on the ground – they’re the one after all who has to take the Visionary’s big ideas and turn them into actionable steps. And down here, things take a little longer.
A consequence of this is that Visionaries have (generalizing wildly) a 7-times-shorter time perception than an Operator: If a Visionary says “Here – do this, it’ll only take an hour at most“, then you know it’ll actually take a full day.
Similarly, anything a Visionary estimates will take a day will in fact take a full week. What the Visionary envisions in a week requires a couple of months actual work, and…well, you can do the math from there. Here’s what it looks like:
It’s not hard to see that our Operator, working at runway level, will of course feel pressured and frustrated by the Visionary’s wildly optimistic estimates of how long it actually takes to do anything.
And here’s where the true pain begins to set in: The third member of our group – the Processor – is actually working underground (metaphorically), putting in place the systems and processes necessary to provide the infrastructure around what the Operator is doing.
So to the Operator, everything the Processor does seems to take (wait for it) 7 times longer than it needs to.
The Operator wants to do ‘X’ today, but the Processor needs to quantify the risk involved, alert the right people, take out the right insurance and instigate the appropriate paperwork. So it actually takes a week. What the Operator needs done in a week takes two months; what the Operator budgets for in a month turns out to take three fiscal quarters. It looks like like this:
So, take a look at the summary of what’s happening (below). What do you think happens when the Visionary and Processor talk about deadlines and milestones?