The C Word

That would be… Consultants.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak about lean for clinical laboratories at the recent Leadership Exchange conference, hosted by the American Society for Clinical Pathology. In discussions during the conference, I was asked many questions about the use of consultants to get started with lean. In many cases, stories started with “Our lab has been leaned out,” with the consequences of positions being eliminated, front-line workers being unhappy with the standard work that someone else had decided for them, and being asked to clock each and every step of their process for days on end.

So my question is, what is passing for lean these days? No wonder I hear people saying, “Lean doesn’t work!”

Now, I know that there are many fine, upstanding lean practitioners out there, who use strategic planning and the A3 approach to lean deployment. Maybe I don’t hear about them because they’re doing a fine, value-added job. But I do hear many stories about lean gone wrong.

Have you had an experience where someone was claiming to be a lean expert, but it didn’t resemble lean philosophy as you know it?

Comments 3

  1. michael cardus

    Another example of how we are all becoming "Lean, 6S, coaching etc…" experts in the field.
    Organizations are offereing Lean 6S in 5 days certifications then turing loose thousends of consultants to ruin the name of Lean.

    This responsibility has to fall on the consumer. Check out the consultant, call past clients, run a check, treat this specialist as you would any high level C level person you are hiring.

    Getting a Lean 6S certification in 5 days does not make you a consultant.
    Much in the same way that being an HR exec for 20 yeard makes you an executive coach.
    Watching a movie about leadership does not a leader make.
    Companies that hire consultants and are looking for the,bid it out and take the cheapest, are going to get what it is you spoke of.

    I hear it all the time, we hired a consultant 5 years ago to do that and we all hated it. It is the fault of the consumer and the consultant.

  2. orlandovalenciagarcia

    Agree with Michael, there are many lean six sigma "consultants" that are not.
    To became a consultant you need experience, a strong proven background.
    Many companies uses lean or six sigma like the flavor of the month and they do not want to invest neither in a good training or to hire an experience consultant.
    I also have been heard about how lean or six sigma is not working within a particular company and what I have found is that they try to "push-fit" all concepts to all projects. The true is that you need to be "flexible" enough to manage how to apply lena six sigma to a particular situation and/or project and that kind of flexibility its only given by experience on many previous projects.
    A "smart" management is also need it to understand the need of flexibilty and adaptation

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Michael and Orlando for your comments. Most of the horror stories I hear about "lean didn’t work for us" involve a leadership team that wanted a magic bullet, or an excuse to cut staff; and a consultant team who was only too happy to offer those results for a substantial price. The consultant walks away with the money, the client suffers the consequences of poor consulting.

    As with all negative stories, these tend to overshadow the honest, knowledgeable lean six sigma practitioners out there who do work wonders when they apply the right tools and methdology for the situation, and help the leaders grow in their understanding of the lean / six sigma philosophy.

    "Caveat Emptor" is still a great watchword. ("Let the buyer beware!" if they don’t do their due diligence when seeking outside help with their processes.)
    –Sue K.

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