Are you Do–>Think or Think–>Do?

The ability to understand the unique ways people think, act and learn allows us to be more effective in our work and personal lives. As I consult, one of my favorite filters to help me do this is determining whether people demonstrate a preference for thoughtfulness or for action. I have dubbed this the ‘do–>think or think –>do’ test.
This concept was developed while listening to a presentation by Robert Moran (Brunswick Group or @robertpmoran). As he discussed an organizations strategy, he used think/do or do/think to define the two strategic options of the company. I have borrowed and extended this principle as it also applies to human and organizational behavior.
Think of some of the people that you interact with regularly (including yourself!) and ask yourself which one of these two categories fits best:
1. Do–>Think: These people are action oriented and like to get their hands dirty. They get to it and are comfortable working with an imperfect plan. Once things are underway or completed, they assess what they have learned and how to improve it.
Example: As I taught a board game game to a group of people this weekend, Ryan interrupted me two minutes into the rules and asked, “can we just begin playing and learn it as we go?” He demonstrated a strong do–>think tendency.
2. Think –>Do: These people prefer to begin by thoughtfully considering what needs to be done. They consider options, line up their priorities and then systematically work their way through them. They are not afraid of action, they just want to spend time on the best ones.
Example: I am teaching some on-line Master’s level courses this fall. The think–>do students in my class are sending me emails in the first week asking for clarification on paper requirements (and also sending in a draft for review prior to submitting the final paper).
We fluctuate between both of these modes of operation each day. Certain circumstances lend themselves more naturally to each of these styles. For example, contrast the difference between the development of a five-year strategic plan versus assembling your child’s new toy. Or perhaps at the height of your busy work season you may not have time to think/do. Sometimes circumstances will dictate our preferred method.
However, I believe that each of us also has an innate bias. I need to tackle large problems with time to think and ponder. In contrast, some industries move so quickly that they often need to be more do/think (think of technology and apps). This filter has helped me understand that I need to shift my preferred style at times in order to work more effectively with the do–>think people or to get work done on a tight timeline.
Here are some ways to apply this principle:
  • Assess the members of your team and identify their tendency.
  • Discuss this model with them and ask them to identify their own tendency? Is it the same as your observation?
  • Identify the person you often conflict with at work. Could your conflict stem from a different do–>think or think–>do orientation?
  • Review whether you identify the style which is different than your own as ‘wrong’ or ‘different’?
  • Determine how having different styles will help you and your team.

There is no single filter that helps you understand a person perfectly. However, the do–>think or think–>do is one tool which is easy to use and often provides you with quick insights about how to best work with a person.


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Do Your Organizational Values Have Legs?

I love it when organizations have clearly defined values. I love it even more when you see those values exemplified in practice. However, the opposite also occurs!

A friend recently told me about a less-than-positive experience during her new employee orientation. She works as a nurse and was hired by a well-regarded hospital. Their orientation blended new staff from every department and role. boxed lunchIn this particular orientation, there was a new cohort of medical doctor interns. At the catered lunch, my friend took a lunch box from one of the two tables in the room. As she took the lunch, she was told that these lunches were only for the interns and that she needed to take her lunch from the other table. Attendees observed that the interns received a higher quality lunch and a clear hierarchy was silently established.

For an organization touting the values of respect, integrity and professionalism, there was a gap between what was stated and what was practiced. Shane Atchison purports that organizations which post their company values all over their walls have serious culture problems. In other words, a company’s values need to be lived, not talked about. While it is easy to point a finger, there are few of us who have not done the same thing over our lives.

Which value is the most difficult to practice in your organization? Where do you have opportunity to tighten the gap between what you preach and what you practice? If you don’t know, I’ll bet your employees do!

Making Meetings Matter

“Meetings are usually toxic because they often convey an abysmally small amount of information per minute”.[1]

Have you ever felt this way? Having sat through many frustrating meetings, I resonate with this statement. Often meetings are ineffective because participants are unclear about its purpose and outcomes. When people enter a meeting with unclear expectations they experience frustration which is a catalyst for conflict. A simple way to minimize this is to establish clear guidelines about the meeting purpose.

Generally, there are five reasons for holding a meeting:

1Information Sharing: The purpose of this meeting is to convey information which helps people do their job more effectively. A common example of an information sharing meeting is a conference or a sales presentation. Increasingly, ‘information’ agenda items are sent via a short email instead of at group meetings

2. Problem Solving/Innovation: Attendees focus on specific problems or ideas which need to be debated and discussed by the group. For example, a department sensed a market niche for a new product. However, the exact product specifications were unknown so a problem solving meeting was used to debate ideas and design a product that would best meet customer needs.Meetings

3. Decision Making: Some meetings are for the sole purpose of making a decision. Often these decisions are a result of a problem solving meeting or are done at problem solving meetings. For example, a geographically dispersed sales team had developed individual draft schedules of their annual sales travel. They called a decision making meeting to synthesize plans, solve scheduling conflicts and finalize decisions as a group.

4. Planning: Organizations build short and long-term plans to establish goals, strategies and tactics. Often called strategic planning, the goal of these meetings is to establish corporate, divisional or individual direction and priorities.

5. Commitment Building: When you need to ‘get everyone on the same page’ a commitment building meeting is effective. These often occur when a new product is launched, when the company hires a new CEO or when an organization embarks on a new venture.

Sometimes meetings will combine more than one of these purposes. If this is the case, you can use agenda headers to outline what participants should expect. Meetings can be effective but it doesn’t happen by accident. They require pre-planning and a clear answer to the question on the mind of every participant – “why are we at this meeting?”

And a box of donuts doesn’t hurt either!

[1] Fried, Jason & Hansson, David (2010). Rework. New York: Crown Publishing. P. 108.

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