That last post about the quote I saw on Twitter generated quite a discussion about the difference in rolls between the Visionaries and the Princes(ses) of Execution. Tariq Khan and Karin Hermans in particular wrestled with the question can you move (or move someone) from one category to the other?

It’s a great question.

I agree with those two that you can. But it is not easy. And both elements are vital in their respective quantities or the organization will flounder.

Big Takes More of Each

The bigger the organization, the more of both elements that is required.

When you are a one man (or one woman) show, you get to wear both hats. In fact you have to wear both of them or you are sunk.

You have to be able to see what what you want to accomplish clearly enough that it becomes real. And at the same time you have to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and figure out how to make your vision become a reality.

As your organization grows you will need more of both sides of the equation. In theory a larger organization is capable of accomplishing more. (As a side note, the primary reason a smaller company sometimes comes along and whups a big company is because they have more of one of these two factors than the established player has.)

In order to get more accomplished the growing organization will require many more folks involved in executing the day to day tasks that get it where it needs to go. It will also require a bigger vision.

But here’s the interesting thing. That bigger vision can be created by just one person. In fact, too many visionaries in a group can be paralyzing. Especially if they don’t all share the same vision for the organization.

Dreamers vs Cat Herders

The other day a friend of mine asked if I was a dreamer.

I had been thinking about that original quote on Twitter that got this whole thing rolling so I answered, “I’m a reforming dreamer.”

Yes, I am a dreamer. But I want to become an even better Prince of Execution.

It is far too easy for me to get caught up in my own dreams and forget to actually get into action and get my own things done.

The grand irony is that when I am part of an organization, I have no problem executing their vision. But to date I’ve tended to fall short where it comes to turning my own dreams into reality.

So as far as my own life is concerned, it is time for me to step up and get better at getting things done so that some of those dreams become real.

For me, when I’ve been part of an organization, my execution has been a little like cat herding. (I used to say cat juggling – you know, keep all the cats in the air without letting any of the pointy parts get you. But cat herding seems like a little more humane imagery.)

I know there are plenty of folks who are sequential task achievers and accomplish an amazing amount. For me I’ve never had the luxury of focusing on one thing very long. My operations experience has generally been much more like cat herding than assembly line work.

Whether it was strapped to the ejection seat of a jet keeping track of planes, ships and submarines, trying to get all the cargo on a container ship completely discharged and reloaded or working on a diverse group of client projects, I’ve alway seemed to have several things going on simultaneously. Multitasking has been a huge part of my professional life.

I started this post with a question. I’ll leave it to y’all to answer.

Can you move (or move someone) from one category to the other?

And I’ll leave you with one of my all time favorite Superbowl commercials. It just so happens to be about cat herding. 🙂



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