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Do We Need a Consultant to Become Lean?

Do We Need a Consultant to Become Lean?

The short answer is no, but it helps. Of course, like anything, the consultant you choose has to be an effective one. But assuming that is the case, a consultant brings a lot of value to the table. He or she has seen a lot, both good and bad. That experience can be extremely beneficial to shorten your learning curve.

The consultant has likely honed his craft over the years, and can come up with a good development plan to guide you on your Lean journey. In addition, the consultant probably comes armed with a wealth of forms, tools, and training, or knowledge of where to get what you need.

There is also a significant Hawthorne Effect that a consultant creates. People seem to pay attention to who is saying something as much as what is being said. In short, employees will likely listen more closely to what a consultant is saying than to what an engineer is saying. There also seems to be a bigger drive for action when the information is paid for.

Finally, you can find a varying level of consultant support now. For example, we offer remote consulting, and can answer quick questions with a minimal investment in time or money. Consulting is no longer an all or nothing commitment.

That said, a consultant is less essential now than even as short as a decade ago. There are a few reasons for this.

  1. More people have Lean experience. Many companies have expertise with its ranks, or can easily hire a person with significant skill in the improvement arts. Of course, this can take time to stock the ranks with talent.
  2. More knowledge is available than ever. This site is a good example of that. Most basic information you will need is just a quick search engine query away. The catch is that much of this information is marketing materials for consultants or for more advanced training, or both. Watch out for materials that cut you off in the middle of a concept. It is better to have a complete work about a basic concept than half a work about a more advanced one.
  3. Technology has advanced, and there are many ways to get answers. Facebook and forums provide great ways to ask questions. You can get some great information, but it can, on occasion, be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

An alternative to a consultant is a good mentor. They can help coach you and keep you on the right track. It is easier than ever to find one with tools like LinkedIn. The downside is that the mentor is probably busier than you are, and his availability will likely be limited.

One of the biggest drawbacks to not using a consultant, though is that you don’t know what you don’t know. A consultant does. Going it alone can severely limit your progress.

So, bottom line, if you can afford a good consultant, it is a great investment. If you can’t, you’ll still be able to get some solid gains, but it might take extra effort and some rework as you battle up the learning curve.

Practical Guide to Continuous Improvement

An audio version of this FAQ is included in this section of the Intro & Exploration volume of our Nuts & Bolts Guide to Continuous Improvement:


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