Three Things You Should Consider When Choosing a Lean/Six Sigma Consultant
Many executives face the challenge of knowing that there is a problem, but their organization lacks the talent or numbers to resolve the problem. They need processes that are both effective and efficient. They want more profit, but they need to accomplish this as efficiently as possible.
They’ve read the case studies on how Lean/Six Sigma can help them accomplish this lofty goal, but what should they consider when acquiring this talent?
Rent, Hire, or Develop
The first consideration is to decide between renting, hiring, or developing talent. Each has a pros and cons that should be carefully weighed. It is often said that business choices are a matter of weighing the impact of speed, quality, and costs. The dilemma is no different here.
The first choice for many businesses is to rent the talents needed through a consultant. Consultants give the benefits of speed and quality. They provide the fastest means of acquiring the talent you need and they typically have a high-quality track record of success. This speed and quality often costs a premium for the business.
Another choice is to hire the talent needed. Hiring a Lean/Six Sigma professional will cost a business less than a consultant. This is especially true over the long-run. Unfortunately, the talent pool for the best minds in Lean/Six Sigma is very limited. Even marginally qualified talent can be difficult to procure. It is imperative to understand that the Lean/Six Sigma skill set is very similar to the Data Science skill set. This is a Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) field that is in high demand. Going this route may save on costs, but it does so at the expense of speed and maybe quality.
Another choice to consider is developing internal talent. This can be a great choice if you are less concerned with speed. Developing internal talent into Lean/Six Sigma can help you retain employees by giving them greater challenges while developing leadership skills. This is, of course, the slowest path, but it also provides a great balance to quality and costs.
You may find that your best choice is a hybrid of the above. My personal path into Lean/Six Sigma was a hybrid of consulting and development. We hired consultants to run key initial projects and to develop internal resources. This provided us with a balance of speed, quality, and costs over the long term.
“They should never accept that things are the way that they are because they’ve always been that way. Seek people that are constantly questioning why.”
Industry proximity is an often overlooked point of consideration. Many assume that hiring a consultant with experience in their industry is the way to go. I’d advise against that assumption. This is especially true when hiring a consultant.
A consultant in this field should be hired to challenge the status quo. They should never accept that things are the way that they are because they’ve always been that way. Seek people that are constantly questioning why. This can be very difficult for industry insiders. That is not to say that it is impossible for industry insiders. The greatest minds in any industry can think beyond their own assumptions.
A good balance here may be to hire talent that is adjacent to your industry. For example a restaurant chain may look for talent with retail experience, or a company in the sharing economy may seek talent with rental experience. These fields are similar, yet they are different.
You’ll want to understand and ask questions around industry proximity prior to making your decision. Decide if this person is too close or too far from your industry, but do not simply write off consultants based on their industry experience.
One word of caution here is the difference between Lean/Six Sigma professionals with transactional v/s manufacturing experience. The approaches and mentality needed for success in a transactional environment differ vastly from those needed in a manufacturing environment. While I could write a book on this topic I’ll boil it down to a very simple reason. Lean/Six Sigma in manufacturing typically deals with issues stemming from machines. Lean/Six Sigma in transactional businesses deals heavily with human behavior.
“Certification should not be considered more valuable than experience.”
The questionable value of certification
Certifications abound in the world of Lean/Six Sigma. Many of these are hardly worth the paper they are printed on. You must understand that there is no governing body for Lean/Six Sigma. This is very different from project management which has the Project Management Institute in the US, the Association for Project Management in Europe, or the PRINCE2 from the Office of Government Commerce in the UK.
Given that there is no governing body anybody could certify people as Lean/Six Sigma professionals. To overcome this issue it is important to consider the professional’s certification. There are many great programs out there such as the courses offered by Villanova University (Pennsylvania, USA), BMGi (Colorado, USA), and Leanscape (Europe). Many companies also offer certification that may be worth considering.
Certification should not be considered more valuable than experience. This is truer in transactional businesses than for manufacturing. Transactional Lean/Six Sigma is more of an art than a science. Are true master is one with both the academic foundation and the experience to apply these tools to produce a masterpiece.
About the author:
Attila Dobai is a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Project Management Professional (PMP). He holds an Advanced Master’s Certificate from Villanova University in Lean Six Sigma with a special concentration in Business Analytics and Business Intelligence.
He has 14-years of experience in a Fortune 500 business leading international continuous improvement projects, programs, and portfolios. He has been interviewed as a thought leader and written about continuous improvement in media such as the Gemba Academy podcast and the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
He is a member of the BTOES speaker’s faculty and will present at BTOES in March of 2019 regarding operationalizing innovation.
LeanScape is a Lean Training & SME Consultancy. We offer both online and classroom-based training as well as monthly subscriptions. If you are interested in driving forward your career and learning more about lean, visit https://www.leanscape.io/lean-six-sigma/
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