Why It's the Thinkers vs. the Action-Takers at Work

It seems as if the workplace is divided between people who are prevention-oriented and those who are remedy-oriented.

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Michael Wade
There are times when it seems as if the workplace is divided between people who are prevention-oriented and those who are remedy-oriented.

The “Preventives” are thinkers. They can conjure up a worst case scenario in seconds. They scout out the territory and like to spot the many ways in which some project or action might go wrong. They love flow charts, procedures, and safeguards. They double-check and then check some more. Assurances that all is well make them nervous. Fear is their bedfellow. Risk is their enemy.

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The “Remedials” prefer action. They are impatient and believe that all plans have some flaws, many of which will only be revealed once the plan is in motion. They are not ashamed of doing repairs while the car is moving because they regard action as preferable to what they believe is paralysis by analysis. They are comfortable with levels of risk that would cause many Preventives to fall into a fetal position.

The Preventives grouse that the Remedials are reckless and sloppy. They dislike any lax attitudes toward rules and procedures and have nightmares about the day when the Remedials generate a scandal or a lawsuit.

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The Remedials whistle along with an “All’s well that ends well” attitude. They have difficulty understanding why the Preventives get so upset about actions that might not follow every rule or procedure but which get undeniable results.

It is not surprising that many Remedials wind up in executive positions. These are bold decision-makers who know how to get things done quickly. The Preventives, of course, make great staff officers. They can be found in the ranks of attorneys and HR professionals.

A sizable amount of entertainment or frustration can be triggered when the two camps talk past one another. Bridging the gap between the two sides is one of the most important challenges for any organization.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.