Many organisations have been ‘burnt’ by a poor Lean Consultant. Those that come in looking smart, energetic, talking but not listening. The one’s with the smooth PowerPoint sales pitch, claiming to be the best with in the field. You know the type. Then once you have hired them, their lack of interpersonal skills and poor depth of knowledge come to the forefront, and within a few days of them starting to work with your team people are being turned off about the whole notion of Lean. Even at this early stage, your Lean journey is already off on a bad start.
Selecting the right Lean Consultant for your business can be a minefield and is not always easy. Of course, all consultants will claim to have a good level of knowledge of Lean; this is part and parcel of any sales pitch. But as we all know, a Lean consultant that only knows the lean tools is simply not enough.
A good Lean Consultant will have built up a sound working knowledge over a number of years of actual implementation. It’s not enough for a consultant to have two or three successful clients. The implementation of Lean techniques will be different for industry sectors and companies because the business environments vary significantly.
A good Lean Consultant will have successfully implemented Lean in maybe 30 or more companies. They will have honed their skills and been immersed in Lean at a leading Lean organisation like Toyota or Nissan. Not as many claim, gained a degree from a leading university in performance improvement or trained as a ‘black belt’ with some ‘credited organisation’. Becoming a good Lean Consultant takes experience, pure and simple.
In addition to having solid implementation experience, the best consultants will also have good corporate level experience and will be well-grounded in the realities of the business world. A good Lean Consultant will be ready to roll up their sleeves at a moment’s notice and work alongside implementation teams and in the next breath be sitting in the boardroom discussing strategic implementation with the senior team. This type of approach comes with years of practical experience.
Credibility is vital as a good Lean Consultant will spend significant time working at all levels of the organisation. This means he or she must be able to develop a good relationship with the organisation quickly. This is much easier when the consultant has an established level of credibility and a proven track record. The best Lean Consultants have the skills to convey the message to employees at all levels, from the boardroom to the shop floor.
Lean consulting organisations have different capabilities and come in all sizes and shapes. Similarly to any other profession, generally the best value is not always the least expensive. Low cost consultants may appear to offer value for money, and may be able to implement the basic lean principles and move your business a short distance along it’s Lean journey. But rarely will they be able to think and work at a strategic level. Pushing and challenging your organisation at the right time and in the right places. To truly transform your business practices to world-class operation takes real skill and knowledge. Select your Lean Consultant on what they will add to your Lean journey not on the ticket price. The reality is it may cost a few thousands more, but the alternative may end up costing you millions in missed opportunities.
In Summary, you should only look for Lean Consultants with the skills and experience to achieve outstanding results. Make sure you choose the right Lean Consultant for the right reasons. This will ensure that you have experts that will truly partner with you, making sure that you gain the maximum strategically from the process and generate substantial returns not only in a short time, but also on an on-going basis, year on year.