Everybody has the opportunity to create value, in one fashion or another.
A person can merely be a “warm body” that stands in as part of a process creating a valuable outcome, but unfortunately are somewhat readily replaceable. Maybe someone has the ability to analyze data and suggest plans of action, abilities that are not as readily available but provide value.
But what makes an associate, manager, partner, or mentor really stand out in their field or profession? What makes these special individuals nearly irreplaceable? Why would I pay someone top dollar for a service, relative to others vying for the same opportunity?
In a word – vision.
The ability to see and connect things differently from everyone else, in the best way possible. Understand my problem, visualize the ideal solution, and share the vision and the plan of action so I can understand and visualize it too. That valuable vision is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
Don’t just be a plumber coming to my house to fix a broken pipe. The plumber I keep on speed dial will be the one who can quickly diagnose the problem, explain why the problem happened, present a solution that not only will fix the immediate issue but will also potentially prevent (or eradicate) the problem from occurring again, and might also be able to examine my entire system to predict when problems might be coming in the future.
I’m not going to hire a random marketer with a cookie cutter resume out of Degree University. Sure, a polished resume is nice and a reputable educational institution could reduce my risk of hiring a dud, but the marketer that gets the job will be the one that truly lives and breathes the product, demonstrates an understanding of what the majority of the customer base feels, puts their skin in the game to make a difference and are processing ideas from the time they wake up until they go to sleep at night, and has aligned their own personal success with the success of the brand.
(Side note: I am truly humbled to have a degree in Marketing from one of the top MBA marketing programs in the world, but it would have been a huuuuuge stretch for me to find that necessary vision and passion about cat food or retail electronics or laundry detergent or cereal or tobacco for which many companies came to campus to hire. My classmates are brilliant and I love them all, and I’m glad they are happy in their career paths doing brand management for such firms but I’m equally glad I was honest with myself and have found my unique path.)
There are millions of photographers in this world, but just one Annie Leibovitz.
Ideally, lean consultants – whether external (hired from outside) or internal (oftentimes called lean leaders, managers, directors, engineers) – need to have this special ability to identify opportunities for improvement and to visualize the best possible scenario for how a process should operate or function.
Lean consultants aren’t folks who come into your organization and tell you what you’re doing wrong and leave. That’s not helpful.
What IS helpful, however, is a lean consultant identifying an organization’s problems and developing a plan of improvement actions, while also teaching the organization how to identify those problems themselves and create momentum for culture change. You know, the whole “give a man a fish” vs. “teach a man to fish” thing.
Lean consultants are valuable because they can show you how to do things better. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.