Diagnosticians

I think of some people as being crackerjack diagnosticians. Everybody knows someone like this – someone who can eyeball a given situation and tell you precisely what is wrong with it, and how, and why.

This is a useful skill to have, surely, and such people are a vital part of any project team. But in my experience, it’s striking how very rarely people whose primary talent has to do with the accurate assessment of pathology are actually any good at fixing it.

To some degree, I include myself in the above category, which is why I can easily imagine that it must be sort of a sad and frustrating place to find yourself – knowing that you’re an ace at spotting other people’s errors, without being at all sure that you can affirmatively produce meaning and beauty in your own work.

The lesson I’ve learned from working with people like this that their manager has to find the proper role for them, has to make sure that their talent is harnessed, their perspicacity is acknowledged, and that they’re offered ample opportunities for professional growth and development. (Who knows? They might find in time that they’re actually able to execute at the same level of refinement they routinely expect of others.)

But they also need to be buffered somehow, because most people (and certainly most institutions) are incapable of delivering to the stratospheric standards your average diagnostician regards as eminently reasonable. They might be correct in their critique, but they’re not going to be useful. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the unruly course of my career, it’s that insisting on a position simply for the sake of being able to say that you were right all along does not make for excellent work.

Of course, knowing how to accomplish such buffering is where all the art and mystery lies. : . )

3 responses to “Diagnosticians”

  1. Dave says :

    Perspicacity. I like that.

  2. Stan says :

    Try a light gray font color instead of white.

  3. Peter Boersma says :

    There’s a typo in line 17… okay, I’m kidding. I have a feeling diagnosticians should focus on fixing their team’s process instead of the hoping to fix the designs themselves. That’s where their meta-ness might be more useful.
    But then again I’d recognize myself in that process-freak that can’t design himself out of a corner as much as I do in your description of the diagnostician…

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