Top 4 questions to ask a Lean Manufacturing Consultant or the Lean Consulting Firm you are looking to hire.

Top 4 questions to ask a Lean Manufacturing Consultant or the Lean Consulting Firm you are looking to hire.

There are many Lean manufacturing professionals that have either started working for a consulting company or have ended up as their own version of a management consultant.  The questions are “which Lean Coach will work for me?” and “what does the correct lean consulting help look like?”.

The goal is to create a culture where your entire company can learn to continuously improve their processes.   To improve while receiving the needed lean training and development that allows your company to solve problems and drive your own lean strategy…eventually without the Lean consultant.

Here are a few things to think about when vetting your potential Lean Consultant…

Is your Lean Coach Humble?

This one can be difficult to evaluate sometimes.  As a Lean Consulting professional, I would want to highlight all of the successful examples of eliminating waste and developing team members, but there should always be some humility in every Lean Trainers mind.  

A foundational part of any Lean Journey is the learning and reflection as leaders are continuously striving to develop their culture to establish a lean enterprise.  Failure and struggle are a big part of the Lean process.  We learn through failure as much as success any good lean consultant, or lean consulting firm, should recognize this and be talking with potential clients about planning for some failures and learning.  

If the Lean consulting company does not acknowledge this extremely important part of the lean journey…then I would be cautious.  The Lean journey is not easy, and is a series of mistakes, pivots, and struggles that are all learning opportunities to build a Lean Management capability.

Where does the Lean Consulting Company do their training?

For me, it is a firm belief that 95% of the Lean Manufacturing training should be out on the “shop floor”, or where ever the work is being performed.  

I am not saying that there is never a need for a classroom lean training course.  I use them, as needed, and I think can be some good value…but the real lean learning happens by “Doing”, and you typically are not getting your hands dirty in the classroom.

The struggles and failures that we gain our best learning moments from come from “doing”….or attempting to improve the process in some way.  Go to the floor and solve a simple problem for a team member on the floor, you will learn more and accomplish more for the company and lean culture than sitting in a classroom.

So find out where and how the Lean consultant plans on training you and your company.  If the majority of the time is planned to be spent in a classroom or away from the shop floor, than question it and think twice about their lean training approach.

Lean Training, are they selling “Belts” or “Capability”?

The trend continues to create an expectation where everyone going down a lean training path is going to get some kind of “lean certificate” or “sigma green belt”.  I understand that as individuals, we are always trying to increase our marketability in the workplace and that there are companies out there that expect the “lean green belt”.  

So with that being said….I do not fault anyone from wanting to get a Six Sigma Black Belt, or a Lean six sigma green belt, or the next Lean Certificate for supply chain…..or whatever.  

But when you see that you can get one of these “Certificates” or “Belts” for $49.95 on Groupon….I would start to ask a few more questions.  What really is it that you are looking for in the Lean training process.  

Many lean Consulting companies are leading with the “Certificates” because it plays into an individualized value that can help them get the client.  The lean Consultant should be talking to the potential client about the increased “lean capability”  that the organization and the individuals will have over time of working with them.  

Just because you were handed a piece of paper, it does not mean that the lean Consulting Company or their Lean Coach working with you provided the best Lean Training and development.

What is the Lean Consultants Background?

Like we just discussed above…it is very easy to look like a Lean Consulting expert in today’s world.  Collect a bunch of lean belts and certificates and eventually you have a Lean consulting company built for $500 through Groupon.  Yes, I am exaggerating…but I do believe that there are many Lean Coaches out there trying to help companies eliminate waste and drive a lean management system…that are over their head, and the clients don’t know the difference.

In order for a Lean Professional in an organization to be able to step into the Lean consulting role….there are experiences that they must have along the way.  I believe that a great Lean consultant needs to have had implementation experience at most levels in the organization to be able to guide a Lean enterprise journey for a client.  

As a Lean Consultant, it is necessary to be capable on the shop floor getting your hands dirty and solving problems at the lowest level in the organization and yet later that day, sitting with the CEO to discuss the implementation strategy to bring the most value to the customers and shareholders.  This is the reality of any Lean Journey….the correct lean strategy spans the entire organization and has a different strategy at each level that is all very purposeful by the Lean Consultant.

So…has the lean Consultant that you are talking with worked at all of these different levels in their past, or will they struggle.  Were they a past executive that never spent any time on the shop floor solving problems or a internal lean consultant that never spent time developing the overall lean strategy?  

Do your homework.  Evaluate the potential Lean Consulting Companies….and if you don’t feel you have the knowledge to evaluate them for their Lean Consulting Capabilities, find someone to help you.  

And of course, we are always willing to help.  Just check us out at ehiipconsulting.com.

-Jason

jasonburt

About jasonburt

Jason Burt is the owner of Evolve Holdings LLC, which provides business-consulting services based on applying Lean principles across all areas and levels of an organization. He has had the opportunity to work with and be mentored directly by Toyota, the creators of Lean. Jason now helps other companies achieve lean cultures and also is actively involved in multiple start-up ventures as an owner and investor. Since venturing into the entrepreneurial world, Jason has had the opportunity to work with many fascinating companies and to help them achieve new potential in terms of business strategy and culture development.

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