by Jenny Junkeer

For many, operating a business free of obstacles, free of stresses and free of problems is an unattainable dream. Instead, we are faced with pain points – some we anticipate and others that come as surprises. Most businesses deal with these pain points and unexpected obstacles the wrong way. More often than not we misidentify the source of the problems, we use “band-aid” fixes and in the long run, your business suffers. Just like any other diagnosis, business issues and business “health” requires a generalist.

Generalists’ profitably bridge the gap between an issue and its precise resolution.

Think about personal health care. Foot pain might cause someone to go to see a podiatrist, not realising that nerve issues are the root of the pain. Had they gone to see their GP, the generalist, their source of the pain would have been identified correctly and they could then be redirected to the appropriate specialist straight away – consequently treating their pain more efficiently and cost-effectively. The most successful leaders apply this same concept to the functionality of their organisation.

Organisations may identify a poor return on their marketing endeavours and therefore, hire a marketing specialist. However, unbeknown to them, there may be an efficiency problem in their information system processes. A marketing specialist will not pick out this issue, consequently costing the business time, money and resources, whilst still leaving them with the original problem. Seeking out a specialist as the first point of call is risky and relies mostly on the luck of the call. So, if we see a GP to then be referred to the appropriate specialist for our health – why do businesses not do the same for their health and prosperity?

Arguably, the main benefit of consulting with a generalist before seeing a specialist is not only identifying the “source of pain”, but it actually saves money. Yes, it saves money. How you may ask, does adding a middle man save money? Besides avoiding unnecessary costs and wasting resources as illustrated previously, it can also add value to your business. The whole point of being a generalist in the corporate world is to be able to adapt to various conditions, industries and any evolutionary point in a business. Having this prowess allows the generalist to not only point out the problem and bridge the gap between the entity and the specialist, but they can also provide a context of the issue at hand through their holistic view of an organisation. In essence, generalists provide the means to a solution, while also contributing meaning to the solution.

To illustrate this ideology, picture this:

A manager identifies mediocre results from their sales team and attempts to improve this by introducing more training. With an insignificant effect from the training, the manager employs a generalist to identify where the issue in performance lies. As the business generalist has a thorough knowledge of the concept of business performance, they are able to identify that the actual cause of low sales is due to poor organisational culture.

However, sourcing the problem is only half the benefit of employing a generalist. Through their general expertise, in addition to identifying the precise issue of any given problem, the generalist is able to devise and implement a cultural shift plan that will review the sales function of the business; review how well the information management systems are flowing through to the sales team; review how connected the sales team is with the marketing team; and actually execute and implement these changes. Among a vast array of endeavours a generalist can carry out, they will support the organisation with all that is needed to achieve the cultural shift, change, transformation and more. A generalist solves the original issue and prevents it from recurring by looking at the bigger picture. Given that generalists actually execute the action and implement change. By solving the original issue, preventing its recurrence and executing overall improvement, this holistic transformation will allow organisations to thrive in their best “health”.

By definition, the modern world functions on the concept of generalism. We base our identities, homes, occupations and lifestyles using this basic concept. When it comes to business, it is all too common for this fundamental ideal to fly out the window. If business managers start identifying the risk of skipping this vital step in improving an organisation, the productivity and outcome sustainability of organisations would flourish.

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