I'm constantly amazed at how easily senior managers and executives in companies large and small succumb to the marketing ploys and promises of consulting companies. Usually, a company will desire to start an "Operational Excellence" program, and search out and hire consultants from one of the big consulting companies to "kick-start" their journey. The company sends in comes a team of consultants - complete with some cookie cutter 6 step program to Operational Excellence.
Instead what often happens is a lot of activity and mass PowerPoint training with very little actual coaching on problem solving. A pile of process maps, standard work, or FMEA's that no one understands or uses and ultimately a dependency on the consultant for further progress.
Soon after, the company is asking "so when do we see the productivity gains?" [smile] well that's an excellent question, too bad it's still the wrong one.
Anyone reading this that is considering departing on a "Lean", "Lean Six Sigma", "OpEx", "Process Excellence", or "Continuous Improvement" journey - please, oh please for the love of god, TAKE NOTE:
DO NOT JUST RUN OUT AND HIRE A TEAM OF CONSULTANTS TO "JUMP START" YOU.
I'm going to do you a huge favor and save you hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of dollars by scaring you off (feel free to send me a consulting fee) by giving you one solid fact regarding such a decision:
THERE IS NO EASY OR SHORT TERM WAY - Period, End of Discussion
The truth is that you're not even in the realm of reality unless you'll willing to invest time measured in YEARS to such a thing...think DECADES, or beyond.
You'll always need a coach, and your coach needs their own coach. Anything less is a joke, and any consultant that says otherwise is either dishonest, or incompetent. Which, doesn't really matter, you still get screwed coming and going.
If you want to truly, truly do this and have a lasting and massive change in your organization...if you want to leave your competitors in the dust and make people want to benchmark you only to realize it's futile as you're too dynamic to benchmark - then suck it up and get ready for the long haul.
Not scared off yet? OK, well let's talk about what you do need then
(yes I know, there are no absolutes, and that includes my list. But these sure help if you're serious)
1. Time (in case I didn't make that obvious yet)
2. CEO / Owner willing to have an coach, and be involved all the way (or at least stay out of your way but give you item #1)
3. Pilot Area
Unless you have an army of like minded sensei's to spread across your company, start focused and tight - grow the talent from a seeded area. You need to show progress to keep the interest up - that's hard to do if you're spreading it too thin.
4. A Capable Sensei
Yes there are some good one's out there that are consultants, but they don't grow on trees - do your research, be wary of those that come from the "Lean Six Sigma" crowd. You may find an excellent coach in those ranks, but so many have jumped on that bandwagon that it produces more bad examples than good ones.
5. An Environment /Culture Where It's Safe to Fail.
Yeah that's right, you want people to fail. Many times in fact, and all over the place. If your employees don't feel safe to test new ideas, and aren't learning from failures then your organization isn't growing - period.
You can buy fancy new software and have it be obsolete in a few years, or you can invest in your people and have them learning about their processes and improving them their entire careers. Which do you think has a better return?
6. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT COST SAVINGS
If you set off only in search of cost savings, you're doing to severely hamper your efforts. Lean is not a short term focus, instead focus on learning, developing your people in problem solving, and you WILL grow and become more profitable. If you want to use some financial metric - I'd suggest CASH FLOW and CAPEX.
So...if you're willing to do a gut check, research and find a sensei willing to guide you, and can resist the temptation for a fast and quick solution...
I'm happy to tell you you're in the right frame of mind and your organization is lucky to have such forwarding thinking leadership. I wish you the very best in taking such a leap forward.