Tuesday, June 23, 2009

List Checkers

I affectionately refer to people whose work style or collaboration culture has little patience for discussion of concepts or process. They want to move immediately to alignment on key action items. That makes them pretty good at executing tactical things but more often than not, they rush off without any process or strategy in mind.

We’re all list checkers in the end; we just get to that point using very different styles. List checkers to me are people who use it as a dominant style. And there is nothing wrong with list checking; especially when you’re working alone and your actions don’t impact others. You can spot these individuals in a group because they tend to rush through discussions and have little patience for questions or alignment.

While I do my share of list checking, I come from a dominant style that tends to frame things in ideas, so I frame proposals in concepts. Then when aligned is achieved, for me the process and key actions seem easy and derivative. Makes me pretty fair at strategy, consistency and finding win/wins, but for a list checkers I’ve learned it is pure torture to have me in the discussion.

I can--and do--work with a lot of list checkers but I’ve seen the damage that results when list checking dominates or bullies a discussion prior to alignment on concepts and process.
  • Too often, it results in actions that are unfair or imbalanced because they don’t take into account whether they are equitable, consistent or justifiable.

  • Too often it leads to fragmented, “little picture” achievements that don’t add up to any coherent strategy.

  • And it ultimately leads to not "listening” which often turns the discussion at hand into the politics of push and shove vs. collaboration. Oh there are achievements for sure, but at what cost?

But while most concept and process people can easily move to tasks, more often than not, list checkers find concept and process inscrutable. That’s probably why they are impatient. They don’t seem to know how or aren’t willing to ask the questions or clarifications important for alignment. Or worse, they don’t have any justification other than pure opinion.

Communities have dominant styles as a part of their brand. Durham’s dominant style is to work through concepts and processes because it tries to be fair and equitable. Often that means people need to be flexible about the end result and trust it can be win/win. But we also have our share of impatient list checkers who I’m sure feel frustrated and irritated at the dialogue necessary for alignment. They are also dismayed when ramming things through isn’t appreciated, regardless of the outcome.

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