Leadership in the C-Suite: Management Consultants Who Improve Processes Trump Those Who Solve Problems

An excellent problem solver may actually end up creating deeper organizational rifts and systemic financial, structural or human capital problems if he is prone to knee-jerk reactions and has an inclination to find quick-fix solutions and short cuts aimed at saving time or elevating his profile.

When seeking to improve management and organizational processes, it is imperative that we distinguish between traditional problem solving which may focus on specific and/or isolated incidents or issues that occur through normal business operations and holistic process improvement measures which focus on the entire process or all the processes within a system. Process improvement, regardless of the model, should be aimed at, among other things, increasing stakeholder value, efficiencies, and outcomes, and it should have a strategic, whole system and long-range perspective.

On Which Side Do Most of Your Leaders and Management Consultants Fall?

While both sides of the grid are important to organizational success, tactical thinkers are focused more on solving problems for current issues and tend to have a narrower perspective than strategic thinkers who are focused more on solutions that positively impact and advance organizational strategy, systems and processes as a whole.


Beware – while it may appear that your consultant is solving some of your more immediate problems and reducing or eliminating real pain, his efforts may indeed result in long-term reduced services, decreased profits, low-quality goods and services, or high employee turnover.

There are several process improvement models out here, and each one will prove meaningless when put into the hands of a focused problem solver – someone who is trying to deal with the immediate issue at hand, remedy the current pain, and check off worksheets and lists instead of actually operating from a strategic thinking mindset that guides and shapes his perspective and judgment.

With process improvement there is a strong focus on being proactive and seeking out opportunities to improve operations, enhance services, effect meaningful change, and influence strategic outcomes. The inclination of those operating from this mindset is to evaluate the interrelationship and interconnections within and between steps, processes, systems and people.

Process Improvers Trump Problem Solvers

As you will see from the following points, process improvers TRUMP problem solvers because the BIG things that executives need to accomplish involve creating, improving or managing systems and processes – not just solving isolated problems.

  • Organizations have missions, and an executive team is charged to develop and execute a strategy that ensures accomplishment of that mission. Deep consideration is given to producing and increasing financial and human capital and whether the institution has the operational capacity to realize the strategy. Individual employees are given roles and solicited to help develop performance expectations. Who on your team is responsible to lead, develop and manage this process?
  • Leadership is expected to provide resources and remove barriers to ensure ongoing success. The process of securing and developing the necessary human capital to implement the strategy and ensure sustainable profit and/or service gains is critical. Who on your team is responsible to lead, develop and manage this process?
  • In conducing process improvement, one has to consider all aspects of the organization – a living, dynamic system that is only as successful as the individual organizational dimensions (e.g., financial, human capital, culture, physical, technology, etc.). Understanding how those individual aspects align with and impact others is what a process improver is focused on. Who on your team is responsible to lead, develop and manage this process?
  • Effective leaders direct their attention to strategy and continuous learning and growth as well as building and developing their people because they realize that the organization is only going to be as successful as its people and culture dictate. Who on your team is responsible to lead, develop and manage this process?

Retain Leaders and Management Consultants Who Focus on Strategy & Process

In an effort to engage employees, activate higher levels of efficiency and create both a competitive and differentiated advantage domestically and globally, public and private sector entities are delving deeper and deeper into strategic and systems thinking and this, in turn, creates greater demand for securing strategic thinkers who have a solid propensity for strategy execution, statistical analyses, and evaluating outcomes and performance metrics.

As such, executives and leaders are ever pressed to hire or contract with individuals and organizations whose credentials, competencies and experiences stretch far beyond communicating the latest jargon, far beyond data collection, far beyond strategic planning, and far beyond problem solving.

We are getting there and now understand that

  • it is not enough to have a vocabulary that shows you understand the latest buzzwords and terminology

We need leaders and management consultants who actually understand when and how to apply the terms.

  • it is not enough to create assessments and surveys and perform data collection activities – no matter how beautiful the reports

We need leaders and management consultants who truly comprehend which metrics to define, what data aligns with those metrics, how to turn the data into actionable intelligence that decision makers can use and how to and in what format the information should be communicated.

  • it is not enough to understand and perform strategic planning activities

We need leaders and management consultants who actually comprehend the full scope of strategy and can develop strategic thinking in others; they need to ensure the right strategic outcomes are defined and then lead navigational efforts as the plan is executed and measured.

  • and while an important aspect, it is not enough to solve problems

We need leaders and executives who not only understand processes but can rise to the challenge of operating as a strategic thinker who applies a process-improvement mindset and methodology in all recommendations and decisions.

So C-Suite Executives Listen Up

Instead of focusing on the next big thing or terms such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Six Sigma, LEAN Production, Just-in-Time (JIT) processes, or Kaizen and Reengineering to name a few,

become more concerned about the competencies of the internal and external leadership teams and management consultants around you and their propensity to operate from a strategic thinking perspective on these matters.

A Great Place to Start

The question is no longer do you understand what you and your team need to accomplish or whether you know what success looks like if you actually accomplish your strategic outcomes.

The question today is, Who on your team is responsible to lead, develop and manage the myriad processes along the way?”

If you have a bunch of problem solvers you are doomed to fail. If you have a group of process improvers – leaders and consultants who are inclined to think strategically, focus on the whole system and consider the interconnections and interdependencies – you might actually turn your strategic intentions into reality!

by Terina Allen
President & CEO, ARVis Institute
Chair, ARVoices Strategic Leadership Network