Why Organisations Need Both of These!
There are two kinds of people in organisations, the ‘WHAFS’ and the ‘YEBUTS’. The ‘WHAFS’ are interesting people because they are naturally wired to think about the possibilities and options that could be pursued, sometimes obsessively so to a fault.
The ‘WHAFS’ are the ‘What If?’ imagineering kind of people, always at the forefront of new suggestions, new ideas, new initiatives and experimentation, they just see the alternatives that others don’t. And then there’s the ‘YEBUTS’, the rationalists, the gatekeepers, the guards of the organisation. They are the ‘Yeah But’ kind of people who feel that despite the merits of an idea, it is their mission to protect the organization from ‘dangerous’ new ideas and initiatives.
The ‘YEBUTS’, who can and do usually warm to the idea of something new, nevertheless feel that they need to introduce pragmatics into the early stages of any conversation so that things don’t get carried away. Without the ‘YEBUTS’, organizations can end up in a never-ending spiral of idea after idea with little or no execution and follow through. The result is that without ‘YEBUTS’, organizations gradually roll to the middle of the bed and get stuck in a pattern of systemic mediocrity. However, ‘YEBUTS’ need to learn how to get comfortable with the fact that ideas alone do not threaten organizations, and that judgment (rational evaluation) should be delayed until judgment is due rather than just killing potentially valuable ideas too soon in the process.
‘WHAFS’ on the other hand, must learn to realise that ideas alone without execution are worthless, and that every organization needs focus and discipline in deciding which ideas to execute and which not to. However, we also need to recognise that these decisions are not personal, they are simply a necessary function of allocating time and resources to mission-critical efforts, hence rational evaluation being necessary. Organisations must however still persist with optimism and determination to pursue possibilities. It is after all the engine of innovation and continuous improvement.
The trick is to recognize the right place in the process for each person to do their thing. If a culture is dominated by overt pragmatism, then very few new ideas will be introduced into the mix and the culture will eventually become machine-like and mediocre. However, if a culture is dominated by the excessive pursuit of never-ending possibilities, there is a strong chance that employees will become overwhelmed with the burden of unexecuted ideas and disillusioned with the lack of accomplishment. So the awkward but necessary dance between pragmatism and possibility seeking must continue, and as this creative tension is allowed to unfold in the fullness of time, it is inexorably likely that actual innovations and improvements will be the outcome.