Planners vs. Doers: Which One Is Better for a Tech Startup?

There are times when you have to ship, and this is where doers come into play.

It is natural to underestimate the importance of a question like “are you a planner or a doer?” in a startup context.

Everyone is busy considering how their lives can be run more efficiently, so it is only natural that this tendency for improvement will extend to the way we handle professional operations.

When working with a small team unit, the ideal personality fit can be what propels the project to unexpected success.

But, the reverse is also true, and personality clashes can hold back a potentially successful project.

Therefore, the concern about getting the “right guy/girl” for your team is understandable.

Much of the issues, may arise from the notion that the established methods must be altered wherever they are found.

There is a particular need to adopt a keen dislike for all things bureaucratic, corporate, or fraught with meetings.

Much in the same way a platform like Slack shakes around the email structure, startups and modern tech companies are looking to veer away from the traditional business model.

One example is the “f*ck it! ship it!” school of thought that has risen as a revolution from the tendency to spend hours of time making minor adjustments to every tiny detail.

By getting the process moving there is a better chance of seeing progress and developing feedback.

Reid Hoffman, the acclaimed founder of LinkedIn, once said:

“If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

The goal is to break away from stagnation by initiating action.

We hope this will lead us to the next innovation by putting our ideas out into the community and eliciting that essential feedback.

But, consider for a moment what other team members with a “planner” type personality trait are going to think if they see company philosophies place no value on their skills.

By creating such an emphasis on action orientation, we might be robbing ourselves of the chance of a comprehensive perspective and complex team dynamics.

The best teams are not the ones where everyone is thinking the same but where various workstyles and individuals are supported to work optimally.

Getting to understand these styles and differences is the first step to creating such a competent team, and the planners vs. doers debate will be long.

1. The Planner

To planners, sitting down to construct a plan is a joy.

The typical planner-type person is everywhere; the picture is a deliberate and thoughtful person led by their erudite mindsets.

All this thought naturally creates a bit of an introverted aspect.Planner

These people interact with ideas and concepts as they are associated with other ideas within the same plan, category, time frame, etc.

A steadfast organizer is one who finds the better the plan, the more the scope of the opportunity it can include.

Within the team, the planner will be a source of ideas and structure.

To the planner, the final production, performance, or effect will never be what it could’ve been with a little planning.

You are probably a planner, if

  • You find project management software to be a close representation of your mental process
  • You believe outlines provide proper perspective. You also believe that planning is not just some preliminary stage, but part of the project
  • The phrase “cross that bridge when we get to it” is nailed on a chalkboard to you
  • Reading is your chosen method of learning
  • You feel stressed if you must set out on the road without an effective roadmap
  • You know perfection is a dream, but you’ll be damned if you don’t get closer than anyone has ever gotten
  • You find you are better prepared after you have spent a good amount of time thinking about the various possibilities and categorizing them in order of potential;
  • If you must change directions in a project, it isn’t because of something unexpected and you were prepared to do so;
  • Your scaleup time is reduced because each step is a stage in a process
  • The information and tools you need are on hand because you have spent time organizing

Ways that the planner’s personality can be problematic

  • You feel that everything can be done a little better with time and are reluctant to show things before they are “ready”
  • You often spend too much time on a single project
  • Your desire to adhere to the plan may hold you back from a flexible move that will be more advantageous to your final goals
  • Your focus on plans and timetables may distract you from the essential goal at hand
  • The best-laid plans can be surprised, and you may spend too much time preparing for a crisis that may never occur

2. The Doer

In the competitive world of technology, doers will be the key to getting your products to the clients before the competitors do.

The doer is full of action and energy. They will be a bit more extroverted.

When they get on board with an idea of something they will get moving and make it happen.

Barriers exist to be surmounted expeditiously and through a team effort.

The doer will feel better with action and speed than with attention to detail and process.


Within the team, this will be the person who will be crucial to building the product.

The doer believes everything is time-sensitive and the team must work quickly and smoothly to accomplish their goals.

You are probably a doer if

  • You feel making lists, and plans are losing time from accomplishing those tasks
  • You believe broad sweeping goals are reasonable. Sometimes you have to get in motion before the more delicate details come into focus
  • You know that perfection is a dream, so why spend time getting closer to perfection than we already are
  • The idea of another meeting after the last meeting makes you mad enough to bite your nails
  • You learn through experience and action

Productivity-boosting traits

  • You work around, through, or over your obstacles as they present themselves. After all, you won’t know the best solutions until all the elements present themselves
  • Your knack for moving from idea to final production quickly allows you to base your directional changes and moves off the real iteration. And this goes for all products, even blog posts
  • The “what’s next?” phase is not something that paralyzes you
  • You are more adaptable to the moment and can quickly think around established mental boxes, timelines, and categories

Ways your doer personality can hold you back

  • You can become very forgetful of deadlines, especially if you weren’t consulted at length when setting them up in the first place
  • You can have difficulty placing a guess on how much time a task will take
  • Lack of process can make it challenging to replicate small miracles and delegate tasks

Some things a planner can learn from a doer

A team benefits when doers and planners share insights

Those who are more oriented toward planning can learn a lot from their action-oriented teammates.

In the tech world, things move a bit faster than, and it is essential to be able to move at this pace and remove ourselves from a personal feedback loop.

Perfectionism can paralyze

If you have arrived at the point where you are satisfied with the goals you achieved and your accuracy, any time you choose to continue is just chasing a dream and sapping your energy.

Just getting started saves a lot of time

Is it possible to begin without a fully-functioning plan in working order?

It is, there is no need to map out every detail of the project to have a solid idea of where you are going.

Planners need to remember that there are levels to planning and there is no need to fill in the duty roster for three months from now if we are still unsure what the most important considerations will be at that point.

Flexibility leads to more innovation

Plans are great things that allow us to build Pyramids and Empire State Buildings.

Nevertheless, they can become idols to the planner-oriented person.

Plans set in stone tend to be too brittle for their own good.

Remember that no plan will ever survive contact with its objectives, it is there to keep the project from taking wild dimensional swings that can put everything at risk.

But, by the same measure, you must be ready to jump from the plan to grab the great opportunities that may present themselves.

Tending to action still postulates the need for planning.

Some things a doer can learn from a planner

To function as a team, all members must be free to apply their strengths fully.

At times, this may even mean tapping into the strengths of your fellows to improve the quality or efficiency of your own workflow.

If you have a natural aversion to planning, you may want to consider what your Gantt-chart-toting co-worker is trying to say.

You need a plan

While it may sound like siding with planners, the truth is we need plans.

There is no other way of operating without a cohesive plan in place.

Not, plans written in stone, not plans for galactic domination, but a plan that helps you see where you are and where you are heading.

Keeping the broader aspects of your plan about timetables, minor goals, and milestones will keep you from getting lost in your passions and side tasks.

This is also an excellent way to choose which tasks are a priority to your goals and which can be considered auxiliary.

You will be better able to allocate your limited resources and efforts if you know exactly which efforts are pulling you closer to your goals.

Planning is also an important part of what makes the team a team as opposed to a band of roving marauders.

Your team needs to know where the plan is going and how they are moving it forward.

Even if some elements are operating on their own and neck-deep in their task, they will still know what they are doing and what their goals are.

The structure can be useful

As part of a collaborative effort, it is essential to have that box that defines the parameters between off-the-wall creativity and that which is germane to the goals of the product and the needs of the client.

Consider a project like re-branding a major corporation. In the beginning, there will be the “no idea is a bad idea” type of brainstorming.

After this, there will be specific rubrics defining the most important needs of the client which will narrow the ideas down considerably.

Then, more processes will eliminate all but the best choice.

There will always be a time and place for wild ideas and creative expression, but without adherence to the process, the whole time frame can be entangled in the brainstorming phase.

Tending to action still postulates the need for planning

You may have noticed this same entry in the previous section, but it works in both directions.

A doer who is focused on improving their action and progress can lose sight of the goals and fly through tasks and projects by the seat of their pants.

This can throw the team effort off-kilter, even those teams with strong “set sails as soon as she floats” type philosophy.

Keep in mind even the most action-oriented effort must leave room for essential plans also if they are a bit tight at first.

Being “action-oriented” doesn’t mean running full-steam at every shiny objective, it means finding the most effective action to move you closer to your goals.

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