How to find a process improvement consultant

Business processes are essential for achieving organizational goals. Processes help turn raw materials — physical components, knowledge, etc. — into usable products and services. They also help employees deliver consistent outcomes for customers, business partners, and other stakeholders.

When we’re designing processes, we generally believe what we’ve created is the most effective way to achieve the desired outcome, but that may change over time. Processes tend to lose efficiency after their initial design, whether due to evolving technology, changes in business practices, shifts in customer expectations, or any number of factors. In fact, they may not have been that efficient to start.

If you want to achieve or maintain maximum process efficiency, your best bet is to bring in outside expertise in the form of a consultant. But how do you know when it’s time to seek help? Here are few telling signs:

  • You’re seeing inconsistencies with product quality.
  • You’re having trouble retaining customers.
  • Employees say processes take too long to complete and may even request too much overtime in response.
  • Employees are discouraged and feel unappreciated.
  • There’s a general lack of cohesion in team dynamics.
  • Operational costs are too high, and you’re not sure why — plus, competitors seem to be able to provide similar products and services for less.

If you’re experiencing any of the above issues, reach out to a process consultant for guidance. Keep reading to see how you can find the right one for your organization.

How to find a process improvement consultant: 3 steps

1. Determine the type of consultant you want

In this context, type refers to whether the consultant is a generalist or a specialist. A generalist will likely have completed a number of process improvement projects across multiple industries and verticals. A specialist will have a portfolio primarily comprising projects within a specific industry.

“To help determine the type of consultant you need, consider three factors about your business: size, industry, and operational complexity,” says Daniel Edds, a 25-year veteran in management consulting and author of two books on leadership and management. 

Typically, size and operational complexity correlate, so the larger and more complex your operations, the more likely you’ll need a specialist. Similarly, industries with greater regulatory oversight and moving parts — think manufacturing and healthcare — might benefit more from a specialist.

2. Search the market

There are three key resources you can use to identify potential providers:

  • Your professional network. Reach out to people in your network and ask for referrals. Chances are someone has already used a process consultant at their organization.
  • Google. The popular search engine is always a great place to start. Try using a search term such as “manufacturing process consultant.”
  • Local colleges. Many consultants are also in academia. Try searching for them at local colleges, as they may be teaching classes on process improvement. “This is an especially useful method for smaller businesses with fewer than 200 employees,” says Edds.

As with most selection processes, aim for three options. Finding just two consultants will make it harder to make a truly informed decision, and having four or more consultants to choose from will make the choice more challenging and time-consuming.

3. Interview and assess the consultants

Once you’ve identified three consultants, it’s time to gauge their potential fit for your organization. Consider these questions as key selection criteria:

  • How experienced is the consultant?
  • Does the consultant have the proper certifications (e.g., Six Sigma belts, PMP, etc.)?
  • What’s the scope of the consultant’s work?
  • Will they be teaching classes to your workforce or taking a coaching role and aiding in self-discovery for you and your team?
  • Who has the consultant worked with previously, and were the clients satisfied?
  • Are the consultant’s clients in your industry?
  • Were the consultant’s past projects successful, and what success metrics exist?
  • Is the consultant asking you questions that determine whether your organization is ready for change?
  • How do you feel about the consultant?

According to Edds, the most critical question is about change: “People get scared when you change how they work, so you need a consultant who’s good at removing or minimizing the fear of change.”

Edds also says that the last question on the list, while seemingly less objective, is just as important as the others. “Think of engaging with a consultant as a marriage. You’ll be bringing them into your organization and relying on them, so you need to actually like the person to ensure the relationship is solid. Process improvement can be intense.”

Once you’re satisfied with your assessments, choose a consultant and move forward with the process improvement project.

What to expect after you’ve made your selection

“A process improvement consultant is going to ask you a lot of questions — so many that it may frustrate you,” Edds explains. “But that’s a good thing because they’re identifying potential weak areas to explore. In the end, they’ll likely know more about your organization than you do.”

The consultant will also help leadership understand the kind of change to expect so they can prepare their workforce accordingly. “Part of that change will be a set of performance measurements that reflect new or modified processes,” says Edds.

Finally, expect the consultant to come back and observe what they’ve helped change. According to Edds, “this is the mark of a good process improvement consultant. Engagements are rarely one and done. There’s typically a combination of tweaking, coaching, and change management to ensure the organization stays on track for success.”

Photo by Anna Shvets

Send Comment:

Jotform Avatar
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Podo Comment Be the first to comment.