Structured vs Flexible

I think it’s fair to say that the last year or so has turned our idea of how we work on its head. Things many of us thought were impossible are now the norm.

But structured and flexible work approaches will continue to exist because they’re both necessary; what we know is that each type suits different people.

How do they differ? I hear you ask.

People who love structured work are likely to love a plan and a timetable. They are motivated by due dates and by finishing or delivering things, preferably as planned. They like deliverables, deadlines, every step of the process clearly defined, so when they start their working day they know exactly what to expect.

People who thrive on structure also tend to have a steady, driving energy as they work towards their goals. Some people thrive on structure, while others can find it stifling.

People who have a more flexible approach to their work can be stressed by deadlines and certainly don’t find them motivating. They are more interested in exploring all the possible ideas and information, ensuring decisions aren’t rushed into. They are likely to work with more sporadic energy as they pursue an idea and can sometimes find decision making difficult as there could always be more information that could feed into it.

To a highly structured person who wants to drive towards decisions this approach can look vague and a bit flaky.

Understanding the distinction between structured and flexible work approaches is very important when you hire a new team member. Ask yourself…

  • Does the position require someone who happily works within a structured environment?
  • Or someone with a more flexible approach who likes to find new ways of doing things and respond to constantly evolving situations?

And what does that mean for your existing team?

How do you assign tasks so the type of work that needs to be done and the individual assigned to it are a good match?

I have a relatively strong flexible preference and, until I understood this, I used to compare myself to those very structured people who seem so competent and who are always driving towards outcomes.

What I now know is that I bring so much value to decision making by asking broader questions, by ensuring we don’t rush to decisions without all the facts and by being comfortable with ambiguity.

As a leader, which style do you feel works best for you?

….And how do you ensure there is space in your work to follow your natural tendencies, whether structured or flexible?

…How do you communicate that to your team and peers?

Lots to reflect on, isn’t it?

If this sparks any thoughts for you, I’d love to know. You can share them in the Big Goals Facebook Group, where we talk about these topics.

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