“The true discovery consists, not in searching for new lands, but in looking through new eyes.” Largely, an outsider brings a shift in a paradigm.
The need for external consulting or consultants depends upon your internal organization. You not only need to people leading the change but also leadership or management who is willing to change to have success. Although during the journey of CI (Continual Improvement) you will utilize tools, but tools are not the magic but proper leadership and the ability to make effective decisions are.
External consultant are firstly the one who have seen many organizations, so they have typically seen many successes & failures to draw upon. Secondly, sometimes it is better to have a third party deliver tuff messages when key stakeholders need to change. Let’s start with a basic question – do you need Kaizen/ Lean consultants at all? Are they really necessary? Kaizen/ Lean consultants is a resource that you use in your implementation. Therefore it is very important for your to understand “What are the needs?” and then look for a consultant that can help meet those knowledge and experience needs. If you feel that you have the time, ability to assess your current state, draw a future state and an improvement roadmap, knowledge & experience to provide your organization with necessary Lean tools and processes to meet your needs, the skills of KAIZEN™ change management, ability to sustain the changes, expertise to build a KAIZEN™ culture, etc. you technically don’t need an external consultant. If you feel that you don’t have any of these or lack any of them, you need an external consultant.
But it is very important to have clear goals before you engage with any external consultants. Are you going for long term partnership, short term project or one-off engagement to deal with some problem? Key points to be kept in mind before you engage with any external consultants:
1. It is your organization and your journey towards operational excellence and not the external consultants, so do not expect a consultant to manage it on your behalf.
2. Know your exact needs or pain areas and then try to address them. If this is not possible invest in the assessment/ current state analysis first.
3. Please remember the external consultants are there for a limited duration and therefore do not rely or become dependent, instead treat them as your coach and learn by doing
4. Be open. Demand what is needed and do not argue. Give time and necessary resources. For a partnership that is beyond an agreement.
5. Develop internal KAIZEN™ champions who can lead the journey of improvement
6. Kaizen/ Lean is a journey and not a destination. You need to keep improving and standardizing even after the consultants are gone.
7. Do not expect quick wins or gain as change cannot happen overnight and it needs a sustained efforts & commitment from everyone
8. Kaizen/ Lean is all about alignment of business goals and clearly cascading them through the organization.
Focus on building a culture instead of making improvement a number game. Consider following points to develop or grow your KAIZEN™ culture
- Publish goals and progress at a desired or set frequency
- Success measurements criteria
- Simple administration with delegation of authorities
- CI advocates
- Local administration
- High implementation rate
- Recognition of employees
- System integrity
- Tangible & intangible improvements
- Short cycle/ Lead Time
The ultimate goal should be to “Gain from wide experience range of a Consultant who has worked on several projects than to start afresh.”