Back in 1999-2000 when I was in Sapient, I remember we were working to develop software – large-scale integration projects that were worth a couple of million dollars. Sapient was following what was called the FTFP model – Fixed Time Fixed Price. The idea behind this was to estimate the delivery of a project at a certain time and within a certain period.
When we did our projects this way, there was this unmistakable rush – a feeling of excitement of doing something innovative mixed with the thrill of having a deadline. We had some of the best & brightest people working with us – from IIT’s & IIM’s and the likes – and I got to witness some breath-taking creativity & design innovations.
After each of these innovation seasons, where the focus was on building a product, the project then had to go into maintenance work. The same team that was assigned the work of designing had the responsibility of working on keeping it running and addressing fixes and whatnot, because they knew the product best.
And that’s what the clients’ ROI depended on, after all – how well and how long this newly-built product could run with minimal interruptions and issues.
There was one slight problem though. The same team that was bouncing off the walls during the designing phase was pretty much unrecognizable during the maintenance phase. They were unexcited, uninspired, and almost resistant to doing the work they knew was coming their way.
The Resolution Conundrum
This was something we witnessed after each design cycle. And like clockwork it would initiate intense debates within the management about how to deal with the situation.
Some people would suggest that we have two separate teams – type A folks, the alpha kind, who would be part of the innovation and creation; type B would be in charge of doing the maintenance work & running the machine. That way those who are good with creation side of things are always doing what they love and are good at.
As an independent coach, look at an organization you work with and observe people who are in the sales or consulting department – for them their role changes every day. These people always want the rush of doing something new and creative in faster frequency. On the other hand, teams within the same organization, such as the HR department, are doing the same kind of work every day.
There is an aspect of seeking creativity and variety that some people want out of their official roles, whereas there are some who don’t seek the same and are pretty much satisfied with their seemingly mundane roles.
So, the question is, are these people really wired so differently? Into type As & Type Bs? Type As being the ones who are the go-getter, over-achiever kinds, who thrive on change and challenge. Type Bs being people who are okay with being in the role that requires repetition and maintenance and doesn’t offer the excitement of a dynamic role.
I believe they are. To a certain extent.
But what I believe that is the difference that makes the difference is the attitude that one takes to do the work. And that’s where I believe we can bring about behavioral change, as independent coaches.
Let me illustrate this via an example.
We have a plumber we always hire when services are required at our house – we have been relying on him for a while now. He is in his mid-40s and a thorough professional, rather picky about the work he takes. He’s slow and meticulous and very detail-oriented in his approach; his recommendations are always top notch and once he is done, one can be assured that it is a job well done.
There was one time though when his handiwork on a pipe at my house wasn’t up to his usual standards – it started leaking the very next day; so, I called him. The next day he came in flustered, incredibly apologetic about the inconvenience.
He got down to work immediately, and with a look of incredulous resignation on his face said, “I have been doing this work for 25-30 years. The same work. And I do the very best I possibly can. It’s so easy for me. But still, perfection eludes me,” and resumed fixing the pipe with utmost concentration.
He had taken something that was seemingly so mundane and repetitive and made it into a zen-like experience for himself.
Which illustrates what I feel about this whole Type A-Type B debate: You don’t need to segregate yourself into rigid identities. When you get to choose, you can choose according to what you fancy. But when you need to do what you’re handed, instead of resisting, you should just apply yourself to it fully and see what comes out of it. It’s not so much about the content of your life, but the context.
To conclude let me finish with a quote that sums it up perfectly:
“For me, life is not about what you do. But how you do it.” – Sadhguru