By Jon Miller | Post Date: December 6, 2006 5:49 PM | Comments: 5
If a customer says "Here's how I want to do Lean." and the consultant says "That's not the right way." and the customer says "Who's the customer here?" and the consultant says "You are." and the customer says "Then I say what I'm willing to pay for." and the consultant says "Yes, but you are asking us to do something in a less effective way than we could." and so on until the customer fires the consultant, you have a situation where Lean thinking is put to the test.
In Lean thinking the customer is supposed to define value, but if the supplier is a Lean thinker (consultant) and recognizes that the service the customer is asking for is full of waste then integrity requires that the supplier (consultant) not deliver what the customer is asking for. When the customer defines value but they define it poorly what do you do?
Part of the reason consultants are so reviled is that they do not listen to the customer. They don't attempt to understand the current condition thoroughly enough. They try to sell what is easy or what they have tried and what worked before. They are not humble. How does the consultant know, other than through experience, anecdotal evidence or perhaps gut feel that what the customer is asking for is wrong?
We find that many of our customers are becoming more educated and sophisticated about Lean. They form an image in their minds of what they want from a Lean transformation or a relationship with Lean instructors. This makes them better buyers of Lean training services and better shepherds of a Lean transformation in their companies. This is good. Yet we are recently seeing cases where the customer is not always right.
If you are selling a widget it may be alright to chant the mantra "the customer is always right" and give them whatever they ask for even if it is not what they really need, if the customer is stubborn. But when the product you are dealing is redesigning the work of thousands of real people (Lean transformation) in a way that influences the culture of an organization for years to come and without a doubt the future financial viability of the company, the seller bears a certain moral responsibility.
It's a tough challenge. If we walk away, some other consultant will happily sell them the "wrong thing". If we stay on and do the easy thing of accepting the assignment in hoping we can influence them towards the right thing, we risk wasting everyone's time. It's not buyer beware, it's seller beware. If only more consultants thought this way perhaps we wouldn't get such a bad name.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.