Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dynamos, Cruisers, and Losers

In his book "True Professionalism," David Maister writes that service professionals, at any point in time, are in one of three categories: Dynamos, Cruisers, and Losers.

Maister defines "Dynamo" as:
You are a Dynamo when you are acting as if you are still in the middle of a career (not a job) and on your way to somewhere.  As a Dynamo, you always have a personal strategic plan that you are enthusiastically working towards.  Dynamos are always working to learn something new, and are continually adding to their skills and knowledge.  They are actively building their practice in new and challenging areas.

At the other end of the spectrum would be the "Loser":
You are a Loser if, for whatever reason, you do not meet the basic standards of quality, client service, and hard work.  This slate, whether temporary or permanent, can be caused by any of many possible things: disruptions in one's personal life, a loss of energy, a dying practice area, and so on.

If you are somewhere between "Dynamo" and "Loser", you are a "Cruiser":
You are by definition, not a Loser.  Cruisers are fully competent, successful professionals who work hard, do good work, and take care of their clients.  They show up each week and "make the sausages."  Then they come in the next week, and, again, make the sausages.  Most likely theirs are good, high-quality "sausages."  In fact, everybody in the firm knows that if you've got a sausage job, you should go to that person.  Those people are terrific at making sausages!  However, Cruisers certainly are not Dynamos.  They are not going anywhere.  Rather than working to learn new things, Cruisers do well for the time being by living off their existing skills.  They are not working to expand their abilities.  They have a job, not a career.

Note that being categorized as a Cruiser doesn't imply that one is a bad worker or a bad person.  Quite the opposite: Cruising translates to dedicated, high-quality work.  We all cruise some of the time; the temptation to do so is huge. Cruising means working at what you are already good at, and in consequence usually means a low-stress, comfortable work life.  Furthermore, it is easier to get hired for what you already know how to do then it is to generate work that "moves you forward." 

However, it is equally clear that a professional cannot cruise forever.  If all you work on is what you already know how to do, you'll eventually be overtaken by someone younger who will learn how to do what you do, and will probably be willing to do it for less than you get paid.  A key to success is to find a way to only cruise (if at all) occasionally and for short periods.

Maister believes that if you view your work as a job, you cannot be in the Dynamo category.  When you come in for the 8-to-5 stuff, you do it well and work hard.  You focus for 40 hours on making good sausages, because that is your job.  Beyond those 40 hours, however, you are not engaged, because you see yourself as being "off the job."  With that attitude, you do not qualify as a Dynamo candidate.

Losers and Cruisers have jobs.  If you do not see yourself in a long-term professional career, then you cannot be a Dynamo.  Maister suggests that the difference between being a Dynamo and a Cruiser is passion.  He also points out the manager's responsibility for leading professionals.
More than anything else, a leader of professionals must help his or her colleagues to find the fun in being a Dynamo.  Leaders must be intolerant of cruising, and demand (and help create) true achievement.

If you are a Business Intelligence software consultant, you have plenty of opportunities to shine as a Dynamo--you just need to supply the passion.  

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I am a project-based software consultant, specializing in automating transitions from legacy reporting applications into modern BI/Analytics to leverage Social, Cloud, Mobile, Big Data, Visualizations, and Predictive Analytics using Information Builders' WebFOCUS. Based on scores of successful engagements, I have assembled proven Best Practice methodologies, software tools, and templates.

I have been blessed to work with innovators from firms such as: Ford, FedEx, Procter & Gamble, Nationwide, The Wendy's Company, The Kroger Co., JPMorgan Chase, MasterCard, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Siemens, American Express, and others.

I was educated at Valparaiso University and the University of Cincinnati, where I graduated summa cum laude. In 1990, I joined Information Builders and for over a dozen years served in regional pre- and post-sales technical leadership roles. Also, for several years I led the US technical services teams within Cincom Systems' ERP software product group and the Midwest custom software services arm of Xerox.

Since 2007, I have provided enterprise BI services such as: strategic advice; architecture, design, and software application development of intelligence systems (interactive dashboards and mobile); data warehousing; and automated modernization of legacy reporting. My experience with BI products include WebFOCUS (vendor certified expert), R, SAP Business Objects (WebI, Crystal Reports), Tableau, and others.