Trying Harder

Have you ever questioned why you are in the Lean/Six Sigma/Continuous Improvement field of work?  I know I sure have.  Usually it’s after I arrogantly ask myself why I have to re-explain something I feel like I’ve explained a dozen times.  Or it’s after rolling my eyes and walking through why you can’t just ignore the points on the control chart that are outside the limits because that’s where the interesting stuff might be.  Those type of things happen for me and mostly because of my own limits in skill, patience or energy.  This past week I seriously questioned why I’m doing this for a completely different reason.
I was talking with a group of friends when one started a dissertation on this awful consultant led “kaizen” event they “had” to be involved in that week.  Normally when that happens, I just let the person finish and try to loop the conversation back to some sort of positive.  You know…something was better out of it or they learned something.  This time, I didn’t even get a chance to interject when a second voice, then a third followed with similar horror stories taking place in other companies with other parties.  These are people that know what I do and have sought my opinion on different improvement related topics over the years.  At that point, I had no idea what to respond with and I wasn’t sure I had a defense in me for the stories that they were telling.

Now, I’m not bashing these consultants (I didn’t even ask who they were) or any consultants in general.  I’ve been able to learn a ton either first or second hand to know that some are very good at what they do.   I also know there are a lot of hacks out there, whether as consultants or in internal facilitator roles.   I really wonder sometimes where I fit on that continuum.  Do I leave people interested to learn more and strive to be better…or do I leave them exhausted and frustrated?  I’ve always felt that one of the ways that I can tell I’m making an impact is by listening to the questions that people are asking of themselves and each other.  When I hear the language start to change, I feel like I’m leaving a positive impact on those around me.  Maybe that’s a terrible measuring stick…I’m not really sure.  I am sure that I don’t want people to walk away from working with me with the same stories and outlook as my friends have of the people they worked with.  Although I can’t make everyone feel the same about the improvement process, maybe I can try to be a little bit better myself and leave others with better impressions and better stories to tell.  Questioning my career path probably won’t help me get there, but continually striving to be better at what I am trying to do might.

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Posted on September 7, 2012, in Communication, People. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Are these people unhappy with the consultant in their stories, or with the content being inappropriate for their job role. I’ve attended a number of such events, some worthwhile, some not. By and large, the person or people running the event are competent and know their field well, so if there is any criticism of the event it’s normally about whether it is fit for purpose in terms of the target audience. Sometimes you will see a consultant turn such a situation around by adapting, other times, you find their are rigid (or perhaps have to be given their brief).

    Just a thought :-)

  2. There is tons of lousy consulting out there, sadly. Salesmanship matters much more than ability to actually improve (very similar to financial planners where what matters most of the time is the ability to sell not the ability to help people invest and plan their futures).

    http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2006/06/10/management-advice-failures/

    http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2012/02/15/why-use-lean-if-so-many-fail-to-do-so-effectively/

    I don’t really understand how we put managers in positions of leading that seek magic management pills instead of knowing that junk doesn’t work. But those people end up hiring instant pudding consultants that then “fail” or “succeed” (basically have no impact and the random variation on the business is either positive or negative…).

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