Lions, Wolves, Beavers and Humans
post # 313 — February 20, 2007 — a Strategy post
Back in August of last year, I posted a blog about Corporate Strategy and Personality Profiles. The basic argument was (and is) that many firms are incapable of firmwide strategy because the key players have not agreed either to (a) collaborate or (b) invest in their mutual future.
I have now expanded my thoughts into a full-length article (Are we In This Together? The Preconditions For Strategy), which has been posted on my website and can be read or downloaded now.
The article describes four kinds of people
- Type 1 is the solo operator who values independence, wants to make little investment in the future, but is willing to bet on his (or her) ability to catch fresh meat each and every day. I call this the Mountain Lion approach. “Pay me for what I do today (or this year.)”
- Type 2 is the individual who prefers to act in coordination with others, but doesn’t like to invest (or defer gratification) too much. I call these people (collectively) the Wolf-Pack. “If we act together we can kill bigger animals, but it had better pay off soon or I’m joining another Pack!”
- Type 3 is the individual who wants to be independent, but is interested in building for the future by investing time and resources to get somewhere new. Such people remind me of Beavers building dams to provide a home for their (own) family.
- Type 4 are individuals who want to be part of something bigger than they can accomplish alone, and have the patience, the ambition and the will to help the collective organization invest in that future. I call this group “The Human Race” since one of the rare things about Homo Sapiens that differentiates it (at least in scale) from other species is its ability to act collectively to build and develop. (It’s called civilization.)
I don’t have a precise metric to measure the differing orientations described here, but I have found two proxy questions to be useful.
On the issue of independence versus team-play, I ask people whether, in general, they would prefer rewards in their organization to be based (compared to the current arrangements) a little more on individual performance or a little more on joint rewards for joint performance. I then ask whether, compared to the current arrangements, people would like their firm to invest more in its future, even if this meant they would have to accept less current income in the form of salaries and current bonuses.
These two (imprecise) questions tend to cause people to reflect on their true preferences. The underlying issue is not really about pay schemes, but phrasing the questions this way tends to crystallize the issues for many people.
The article then explores the question: what can be achieved if you have a mixture of all types in your organization?