The world needs Dreamers and the world needs Doers. But above all, the world needs Dreamers who Do.Sarah Ban Breathnach, Goodreads.com

Over the years, as I watched people flourish or flounder at work, I witnessed the degree to which success is dependent upon a good fit between workers and their role in the organization. I found there are two characteristics essential to success in any organization: dreaming and doing. We are all Dreamers and Doers to some extent, however most of us tend to lean a little more one way than the other.

When hiring new employees or considering a change for current employees, it’s a good idea to gauge the degree of Dreamer/Doer requirements of the position. A successful fit is almost always related to how a person’s Dreamer/Doer ratio aligns with their role. Dreamer roles tend to require more creativity, and Doer roles, more routine.

The charts shown above illustrate the Dreamer/Doer ratios for positions in a supply chain company:

  • A Material Planner is responsible for ordering materials needed for production. Usually the information comes from a system (e.g., MRP) and then the raw materials are ordered through the procurement system. Accuracy and consistency are essential to successfully executing the process every day to keep the production lines running. (Strong Doer)
  • A Planning Manager needs to be a creative problem solver in order to resolve issues that arise everyday. They must also be strong communicators and be able to work effectively and efficiently. (Strong Dreamer)
  • A Director of Logistics must develop innovative ways to improve the overall efficiency of the supply chain. People who have risen to this level have done so because of their strengths in both practical and creative arenas. (Strong Doer/Dreamer)

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Here are a few characteristics of Dreamers and Doers that may be helpful when determining the ratio of potential candidates:

Characteristics of an effective Dreamer

  • Candidates with experience in finding creative ways to use technology are dreamers. Various technologies continue to grow at an exponential rate. The companies with employees who find ways to leverage emerging technology will be leaders in their field. For example, new technologies exist in the form of improved hardware and software that allow for better, quicker decision-making. Companies who work out innovative ways to use this technology will have a competitive advantage.
  • Candidates who know how to gather and analyze data are effective Dreamers. For example, the Dreamers who have found innovative ways to optimize networks or systems will be extremely valuable in most organizations. Having the ability to review complex data analyses and provide solid recommendations for enhancements is always an excellent capability.

Characteristics of a strong Doer

  • Candidates with meaningful experiences as leaders, as well as working on successful teams, are strong Doers. Those who have demonstrated strong leadership skills in difficult situations are extremely valuable. When it comes to executing plans, I personally found the candidates who put a plan together, and then rolled up their sleeves to fully support the team, were going to be successful in the organization.
  • Candidates willing to take on difficult challenges and work outside their comfort zone are strong Doers. People who are ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ are most likely to adapt and take on new challenges, as well as to grow within the organization.

One last consideration is to gauge a candidate’s ability (or willingness) to adjust their Dreamer/Doer ratio as they move up in the organization. Knowing that the roles at the various levels of the organization will require varying amounts of Dreamer/Doer, it’s important when hiring ‘high potential’ future leaders that they show the ability to ‘do’ as well as the ability to ‘dream’.

It takes a little practice and patience to get to know a person’s ‘ratio’ but once it is understood, there will be an improvement in success rate of the candidates.

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At a company conference several years ago, Leadership asked for anonymous comments from team members about concerns they had for the business. I wrote, “Sometimes it feels as though management is like Nero fiddling while Rome is burning”. This may have been harsh. My point was that there were issues in the organization that I felt were not being addressed that could cause major problems for the company.

Working in the quality side of the business I developed a keen sense of how the right (or wrong) combination of situations could severely damage a company’s image. Although we had not experienced a product recall situation, I felt Leadership was not taking the ‘close calls’ we had the previous year seriously enough. We all have a responsibility to keep the consumer safe while protecting our company and brand image. The best way to do this is to prevent problems from happening. 

Today the news of a product recall is instantaneously broadcast to the world via the Internet. Within a few hours, social media will pile on and before you know it, the problem is broadcast nationally and beyond on multiple media outlets. Think of Toyota and the uncontrolled acceleration in some of their cars: the combination of a few minor design flaws impacted the safety of the product. Whether the situation was under control or not, Toyota’s reputation was damaged almost immediately after the announcement of the product recall. 

Having knowledge of a situation that could potentially create a product safety issue and damage the reputation of the brand and the company is a call to action. It can take courage to make a case to Leadership in order to prevent a severe problem from developing. It is also essential to demonstrate credibility, produce supportive data, and offer a solution when possible. 

“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right” ― Henry Ford

Have Credibility

When it comes time for the rubber to meet the road, the discussion will come down to credibility. It takes time to build up enough trust to have difficult conversations with your superiors. To make a difference within an organization, one has to be trustworthy and have a track record of solid performance. Do what you say you are going to do and do it well. 

Use Solid Data

When developing a case for discussion, have solid data behind your claims. It is not enough to say, “I think there is a problem.” Any reasonable manager will ask for evidence. What I found over the years is that sometimes when going through the due diligence of building a case, we find that the issue isn’t as dire as we originally thought. On the other hand, sometimes it’s worse. Do your homework to clearly and fairly prove your point. 

Develop a Feasible Solution
“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” - Teddy Roosevelt.

Finally, put together a feasible solution or action plan that will mitigate the situation. It will make the case more credible if Leadership is presented a specific set of activities that clearly identify the current risks along with corrective actions. Nobody likes to have problems dumped on their doorstep, so when the person making the case suggests a solution, the chances of being heard will greatly improve. 

Whether it is a critical product safety issue, or a significant business situation that needs to be brought to Leadership’s attention, summon the courage to make the case for improvement. If you believe the bosses are ‘fiddling’ or just focused on the myriad issues of the day, take the initiative to make a difference.

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