Dear market visionary, with your piercing eyes and enviably precise understanding of what customers want RIGHT NOW,
Are you all passion, and no discipline? When the nuts-and-bolts people in your organization talk about process or risk, do you feel artistically neutered, or robbed of the excitement that gets you out of bed in the morning?
Dear operations guru, with your mastery of Excel and your well-documented answer to every what-if scenario,
Are you all mind, and no heart? In the midst of your partner’s impassioned speeches about what must be delivered at any cost, do you feel your collar tightening? Do you feel that cold sweat brought on by … oh god, no … unmanaged risk?
Take a deep breath.
The feelings are good. The fighting is good. No, it’s not good if you’re singularly driven to prove yourself right. It’s definitely not good if you’re fighting on a personal level. It’s only good if you are able to profoundly realize that the inherent friction between passion and discipline can be an organization’s most significant asset. Then, and only then, it’s great. It can lead to brilliant products that change markets and make life easier for millions of people; it can be the basis of programs that provide a lasting, positive impact on a part of the world that needs it; or at a minimum, it can make you much more professionally satisfied than if left alone with your own psyche.
The atomic collision between passion and discipline can be brutal. It can deeply expose your insecurities (visionary: “I might never fully understand how to run our business.” operations guru: “I might never fully understand what actually drives our business.”). And it can take super-human strength to not take it personally.
But, the fact is that success is enabled by a righteous balance between these two ideals, and often it takes a fight or two to find the balance. The balance between passion and discipline, between heart and mind, between what the spreadsheet tells you and what your gut tells you, … between is where the best path can be found. Fight it out and find the path.
We’re skeptical of stories about great operations minds who risk-managed companies to legendary status, or foreign aid visionaries who followed their guts to public health breakthroughs. On closer inspection, we almost always learn that the visionary possessed rigorous discipline in equal measure, or debated continually (adapting and learning the whole time) with someone who did. And the truly great operator most likely sought and found passion somewhere–within or close by.
At S&C we’re honored to work on some high stakes propositions, like philanthropic investment models for non-profits trying to do good work in the developing world. You can be darn sure that passion and discipline square off every day here. Ding-ding, round after round it can go. It’s not always brutal, but sometimes it is. Sometimes it exposes insecurities, and yes, every once in a while, even a seasoned pro can find himself taking it personally.
But we like to fight because we profoundly realize that constant friction between passion and discipline is a significant asset. We like to fight, because it leads us to the right path for ourselves and for our clients.
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