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Ask Dr. Mikel Harry Organization & Strategy How do you determine a good consultant from a bad consultant? What selection criteria should be applied?

How do you determine a good consultant from a bad consultant? What selection criteria should be applied?

The first step to authenticating the legitimacy of a Six Sigma consultant is a thorough investigation of their published credentials.  In terms of today’s consultants, so many on the “lower end of the pile” use “upper end spin” to more favorably posture themselves in the eyes of prospective clients, as well as those of the unwitting.  Frequently, they rely on “top spin” to create an “implied association” with those that have been duly recognized.  In short, they take bits and pieces of truth to create a skewed perception of reality (significantly to their favor).  Of course, such behavior is known as “deception” and not “advertising. ”

To illustrate the latter point, consider the fact that Mr. Rich Schroeder and myself were the prime contractors to General Electric, Allied Signal, Ford Motor Company, Sony, and many other top corporations.  We often provided prospective clients with the documented evidence of such prior corporate engagements.  The point to this is simple – you should ask for the “statement of work” and corresponding “signature page” of previous contracts.  You should know whether they were (in fact) the “prime” contractor responsible for “corporate-wide deployment and implementation” or just worked as a “training sub-contractor” only retained to execute knowledge transfer. 

Highly experienced consultants will have numerous references and public citations.  As a personal demonstration of the latter point, I have often referred interested parties to the autobiography of Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric).  In the book (Jack: Straight from the Gut) – he graciously referenced my name (and a couple of related stories).  This is also true of the book “Jack Welch and the GE Way.”  In addition, letters from other noted CEOs are provided in my portfolio.  Furthermore, I provide the results of an Internet search (using my name as the input).  If a Six Sigma consultant is truly an “expert” they will be able to produce unambiguous citations and references from multiple sources.  This is what should exemplify their status – not self-referencing declarations.

Far too often, the desperate consultant will offer a “guarantee” they know will never be tested.  The less reputable consultants (and practitioners) frequently participate in public forms where the focus is on discrediting those that are widely recognized as an authority.  They try to build themselves by tearing down the character of others.  Remember the old saying: “If you are recognized as number 2, just work a little harder.  If you are known as number 3, just work a lot smarter.  If you simply don’t have a number, then try to mask it by bashing whoever is number 1.”

Yet another point is related to “the written word.”  A true Six Sigma expert will be reasonably well published (in several areas).  Surveying a consultant’s publications can provide a “profile” of their true skills (versus what they say their skills are).  Where the practice of Six Sigma is concerned, look for a good balance between white papers, textbooks, and journal articles.  The theoretical should balance with the experiential.  The technical should be in proportion to the managerial.  To discover this, just ask for a bibliographical listing of their publications.

In summary, there are two primary areas of due-dilignece — public citations and published position.  A careful investigation into these areas of a consultant’s professional life will often reveal their true character and motives.

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