Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 things lean consultants should stop doing

Here are some New Year's Resolutions for 2010. They aren't for me exactly. Well, maybe some are. I have been guilty in the past of some of these transgressions. Mostly, this list is for all of those consultants out there that frustrate the heck out of you. Since most people are too courteous to say these things out loud, here they are. Feel free to comment with any I haven't listed.

1. Stop "improving" established words and phrases to try to make you look more unique/smart/insightful/cool than the other 100 guys that came before you. Did 5S really need to become 6S?! Is Value Chain Mapping really different than Value Stream Mapping? Lean Sigma??!!

2. Kill your PowerPoint presentations, start over, and understand how adults like to learn. Those 100 slide "decks" with 100 words per slide that put us to sleep or make us want to tear our eyes out are not effective. Remember: brevity is genius, and a picture is worth a thousand words. I remember some of the better Shingijutsu consultants. They didn't use computers, wouldn't speak English, and were somehow able to teach us a heck of alot.

3. Stop pretending that your training material is proprietary or unique. Let's face it; you stole your content just like everyone else did. Deleting the Danaher/Rockwell/Boeing, etc logo and adding your logo on the bottom doesn't make it yours. And, heaven forbid, don't try to sell it!

4. Don't inundate us with Japanese words, half of which you don't really understand anyway (and you pronounce wrong).

5. Is it time to throw out the word "kaizen" once and for all. "Kaizen" is probably the least-standardized, most mis-used Japanese word out there in the lean transformation world. I hear it used as noun, verb and adjective, and pronounced 3 different ways. And almost nobody uses it the right way anyway (tongue is in cheek).

6. Stop dressing so nice. If you want to establish rapport and be viewed as a coach and mentor, you don't have to dress like a consultant all of the time. If we all wear jeans on Fridays, why can't you? And those golf shirts with your company logo on them... soooo 1990s.

7. Stop with the cliches. We know we need to think out of the box, break down our paradigms and embrace change. And, at the end of the day, if we take a 30,000 foot look, we shouldn't throw anyone under the bus. Unless of course, they have failed to pick the low hanging fruit and they are being reactive, not proactive.

8. When you don't know the answer. Admit it. Be honest. Don't just say,"Well, what do you think?" Teaching by the Socratic method has its time and place. We all have lots to learn.

9. If you worked in automotive, we don't want to hear about automotive. Help us understand how we can use the same principles, but in different ways, that can work in our environment. All industries have unique challenges. It's good to talk about Toyota, but not too much.

10. Stop regurgitating everything you've read in books or heard at a seminar. Although it's great to know what Ohno or Shingo or Deming said, we want to hear your words and about your own experiences. I think its important to know the history of lean and keep up on the latest thinking, but we need to know you can think for yourself.


  1. Great list. Here's my Top 10 list of things I'd wish lean people would not say in 2010 (or beyond!):

  2. Oops, here is a link you can click on: