Independant Consultants, Internal Resources

How Does Your Company Approach Operational Improvement?

Every company wants to improve operational performance.  Of course, its obvious.  But how?  We have seen many approaches over the years.

The first instinct is to task operational managers with the mission.  “Look at your operation and make it better.”  Hmm.  How does that work?  This fellow is already managing day to day operations and he may have setup the way it works now and does not see any flaws.  This is just another thing to do in an already full day.  This approach might work, but probably not.

Step two is to send in the “Tiger Team” or whatever corporate wants to call them today.  This is an internal corporate group of experts who will come and spend some time at a facility and make suggestions based on experience, corporate policy and what other groups in the company are doing.  This approach has a much better chance of making some improvements if they followup and keep working with the operations manager and his team.  But there is a glaring flaw in this approach.  Politics and viewpoint.  Face it, when the corporate team shows up the local staff is probably going to be on the defensive.  Why did they come?  Are we on the chopping block?  Who do they report to?  And so on.  The corporate team is also going to own the corporate world view.  Do they really have the fresh eyes that allows an unbiased look at operations?

How Can A Short Term Embedded Consultant Jump Start Operational Improvement?

Everybody “knows” consultants are expensive.  They also do not understand exactly how your organization works.  They are more trouble than they are worth.  Hmm, is that all true?

Sure, consultants are expensive.  They are like bringing on another expensive employee.  The difference is that they go away when the job is done, while hopefully their benefit carries on for a long time if they have done the job well.

And yes, consultants do not initially understand your organization and if improperly used are more trouble than they are worth.  The advantage of a short term embedded consultant is the broad range of experience they bring and the fresh eyes.  The way to make the consultant work is to team him with the internal experts.  The internal expert can manage the range of the assessment, focus the insights and make sure the solutions fit the culture so that all important buy-in is gained.  The internal expert is the gatekeeper and corporate interpreter.

But, you must let that consultant really “see” what is going on.  Let him question and experiment with your internal experts and operational teams.  Those fresh eyes can see a lot that the local team or the corporate team may not see because it seems routine to them.   The consultant also has no internal political baggage and no authority.  The consultant can be much less threatening and can get the local staff to open up.

Finally, the worst thing an operational consultant can do is come, see, write a report and leave.  The well deployed operational consultant works with the internal experts to develop the implementation plan and materials to make the recommendations happen.  They help the company and operational managers over the “hump” of change.  They are there to help with the training, and to answer the questions that come with change until the organization accepts and embraces the new systems and processes.  Then what?  The consultant has worked himself out of a job and leaves behind systems and processes that replace his expense with ROI.  We like doing that.


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