Taking the ANAL out of ANALyst


Also, I don't like no one touching my stuff. So just keep your meathooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I'll kill you. And I don't like nobody touching me. Any of you homos touch me, and I'll kill you. 
~ PVT Francis "Psycho" Soyer, US Army, 1981*

The "Anal" personality is not well-suited for collaboration. Anal retentiveness manifests in extreme orderliness, perfectionism, ownership, an obsessive attention to detail, & possibly most annoyingly....a need for self-reliance & a burning desire to control their environment. 

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Four (4) kids in the same sandbox each building their own sandcastle is not collaboration; that would merely be simultaneous individual work in close proximity. It's also not collaboration if each kid builds a wall or corner of a single sandcastle, though we might be getting closer. All kids working together on each & every part? Now that would be the truest representation of collaboration. 

The anal kid can't bear to see someone else touching their carefully dumped bucket of sand. "That's MY pile." They're possessive like that. They don't trust others to work with what they've been working on. 

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Some of you know that I am back in college (remotely) to finish a long-abandoned undergraduate degree. There are no shortages of group projects. What has really impressed me with this generation of students is their ability & willingness to collaborate. These 20-year olds are astute to working on shared cloud documents via Google, OneDrive, or other platforms. They understand how to make comments, offer suggestions, or ask questions. They annotate, take initiative, and appreciate the group aspect of these assignments. 

No fellow students have yet to take on that strict control, perfectionist mindset. 

My theory is that collaborative work has just been a part of early formal schooling for the past decade. Working with others is the norm for this young generation about to hit the job market. 

My taskforce work as a police detective supervisor has me working alongside a great number of crime & intelligence analysts. At the risk of stereotyping, the vast majority of their personalities are "anal retentive." 

This can be a most-desirable trait for individual projects. They take great pride in their work. They are obsessed with details & accuracy. And they take ownership of the products.

Sometimes, ownership to a fault.

Those same traits that make analysts terrific individual workers make them horrible collaborators! 

Don't believe or agree with me?

Ask an analyst to share an Excel spreadsheet with a handful of others, for others to contribute data to it. See what the response is.

If that analyst offers to collect the information. Or to keep another separate working copy. Or will just do the work themselves....

You got yourself a selfish, anxious, anal retentive individual who does not trust the team to play in their sandbox. (Notice: I used the word "team;" these may still be good "group" players. Want to know the difference? Teams vs Groups.)

Tradeoffs are funny like that. What makes them succeed in one (1) environment will make them struggle to work in another. 

If you work with analysts, take a look at their work styles. If they're best suited for individual or group work, then maximize that type of work. If you have an analyst that truly collaborates in a team environment, you've got yourself a unicorn. 

Sadly, there are too many analysts who take on a "don't touch any of my stuff" attitude. Their introverted tendencies won't likely be as outwardly bold as Private Francis Soyer in the movie Stripes, but it's just as toxic. 

We've got to find ways to exploit their personalities, but equally find ways to mentor them into being more comfortable in sharing. Sharing the work, the results, the accolades, & the inevitable mistakes. We need to be able to take some of the ANAL out of ANALyst.


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Lou Hayes, Jr. is a detective supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. He's focused on multi-jurisdictional crime patterns & intelligence, through organic working groups compromised of investigators & analysts from a variety of agencies. With a passion for training, he studies human performance, decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, & adaptability. In 2021, he went back to college (remotely!), in hopes to finally finish his undergrad degree from the University of Illinois - Gies College of Business. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model

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