Operations Payoff

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I was talking to a friend who is a retired senior partner in a very successful advertising agency. We were discussing what drives profit and growth acceleration in companies. He explained that there are three kinds of people in companies: doers, getter-doners, and thinker-uppers.

Doers are those who execute – important certainly, but you can find and develop doers relatively easily. Getter-doners are those who make sure the work gets accomplished, setting priorities and project managing to ensure quality goals and deadlines are met. These people are harder to find, but again, can be developed or hired as needed.

The third type is the rare breed, the thinker-uppers. These are the people who develop innovative approaches, generate imaginative ideas and often use disruptive thinking to create new ways of doing things. These people are hard to find.

Senior executives are responsible for assuring the presence of all three kinds of people in the organization. Without doers, the work never gets done. Without getter-doners, the priorities are lost and the work drifts. Without thinker-uppers, profit and growth won’t accelerate.

Do you have the right people on your team? If you lack thinker-uppers, do you use outside resources to help accelerate profit and growth?

© 2018 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “Thinker-Uppers

  1. Rick,
    Thank you for the post. This is a good way of thinking about the different roles needed withing a company. My experience is that the distribution of the three kinds of people matches what you have here: over 50% are doers, less than 25% are getter-doners and/or thinker-uppers. One difference, I haven’t found that thinker-uppers are so hard to find, you just need to create an environment where they can thrive. Throughout my career, I have made it a point to meet and talk with the “doers” of a company before meeting with executives. What almost always happens is that I hear many good ideas for company improvements. I then meet with the executive and relay the ideas I just heard. I become a ‘genius’ for my insights on how to improve the company. Lean Thinking is predicated on releasing the thinker-upper in all of us. For many, these improvements are small and localized, for others they are ways to make substantial changes to how work is accomplished.

    • Thanks Ravi – very insightful. You are right that the best ideas often come from within the company. In addition to great ideas, I look for places where things are done particularly well. I call this looking for internal best practices.


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