Operators vs Visionaries (1998)

From a fantastic and visionary Canadian research paper on two kinds of entrepreneurs as leaders published in 1998 by Louis Jacques Filion, and linked here.

Table 4: Operators’ vs Visionaries’ Managerial Activities

Operators Visionaries
Knowledge of the sector, focused on production and sales General knowledge of the sector as a whole, from a marketing standpoint
Development of a view Formulation of a vision
Career decision, choice of professional activities Business decision, personal commitment
Production and/or sales and/or R&D Implementation of a vision by selecting relations
Working with others Design and implementation of an organizational activity system
Organization Sharing of the vision
Resources Accountability
Follow-up Observation and monitoring
Corrections Analysis and imagination

Further excerpts:

Operators try to earn a living by using their skills. In most cases, they work to a fairly fixed schedule in the enterprise, rather as though they were employed in senior positions in a large organization.The professional life of an operator is just one of many elements making up an overall life system, and sometimes other elements, such as family, leisure activities and hobbies, may be equally or even more important.  pp 5-6

Visionaries, on the other hand, have dreams or visions that they want to realize. They commit themselves wholeheartedly to the task. Their systems tend to be all-embracing and totalitarian, both for themselves and for the people around them, who have been hired to help realize the vision. Visionaries initiate development, while operators perform tasks. p. 6

One clearly visible difference between the two groups lies in the organizational social systems they build. Operators hire human resources on the basis of the job to be done, and very often select someone they already know. They often complain about the incompetence of the people around them. It is easy to understand why. The people in question were hired to perform a given job, but a year or two later, the job has changed, and the person no longer has all the skills required to perform it. p. 6

For visionaries, however, the key basic elements are the central vision and complementary visions. Because visionaries have visions, they are able to step back from the enterprise and obtain an overview that allows them to select people capable of progressing. Visionaries keep their human resources for longer, and tend to express greater satisfaction with their staff. The time they spend communicating where they want to go and what they expect of their employees allows everyone to evolve together around a learning culture that generates perpetual, mutual adjustments. p. 6

Main elements of an Operator’s process:

  • Selecting
    • Identifying and selecting a business sector.
  • Performing
    • Performing technical, management and business activities.
  • Assigning
    • Using human resources and assigning tasks.
  • Allocating
    • Making available the material resources needed to perform tasks.
  • Monitoring
    • Monitoring some of what is done.
  • Adjusting
    • Making corrections to methods.

Main elements of a Visionary’s process:

  • Visioning (versus Operator’s Selecting)

    • Identifying an interest in a business sector.
    • Understanding a business sector.
    • Detecting a business opportunity.
    • Targeting a niche in a different way.
    • Formulating emerging visions.
    • Imagining and defining an organizational context.
    • Planning.
  • Designing a business architecture (versus Operator’s Performing)
    • Formulating complementary visions: management tasks and activities to be performed.
    • Structuring the activity system.
    • Organizing.
  • Animating (versus Operator’s Assigning and Allocating)

    • Linking tasks to human resources.
    • Recruiting, selecting and hiring human resources.
    • Directing human resources towards the realization of complementary visions.
    • Communicating and motivating.
    • Leading.
  • Monitoring (versus Operator’s Monitoring)

    • Monitoring achievements and resources used, including time.
    • Comparing results with forecasts and analyzing differences.
    • Correcting, adjusting, improving.
  • Learning (versus Operator’s Adjusting)

    • At every stage, questioning what has been done and how it has been done.
    • Considering alternatives.
    • Seeking elements of consistency.
    • Reasoning.
    • Imagining.
    • Defining and redefining emerging visions, the central vision and the complementary visions.

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