I would first like to say something that may sound strange: I believe in consulting. There are lots of well deserved jokes about consultants, but I still believe, in this day and age of prepackaged solutions, that there is still great value in listening to the client, understanding their unique circumstances and culture, drawing upon many methodologies, and co-creating an approach to change with the client. This is consulting with integrity.
I have been consulting for more than forty years and understand the importance of working closely with senior managers to help them achieve their business strategy as well as to implement improvement in the culture of the organization. I have also been the CEO of two companies, started and later sold two companies, and had all the responsibility of growing a business and managing costs. All of my consulting focuses on performance improvement, improving the culture, lean management implementation and individual and team development.
Coaching for Lean Leadership and Culture
Lean management and culture have produced dramatic and sustained improvements in performance in manufacturing, health care, and other service environments. Lean is more than the tools of problem-solving and eliminating waste. It is a culture that must be practiced at every level of the organization. Through my training and coaching I have worked with dozens of companies to implement lean culture in a manner best suited to their circumstances.
In most cases I work with and through internal change agents. The best consulting relationships are true partnerships between the external consultant, internal change agents, and the senior executives. Today many companies have very competent internal trainers and coaches. I may directly coach the senior managers and work with a team of internal coaches.
The cost of managing change is a factor that often limits the effectiveness of change efforts. Many consulting firms are still focused on maximizing the number of associates they have working for a client. There is a better way: first, employ the efficiency of online learning; second, develop internal consulting capability; third engage all members of the organization in action-learning, learning by putting knowledge to work. I have invested a good deal of time developing and refining online learning to develop lean leadership and high performing teams. This relieves internal coaches of the labor of conducting repetitious training sessions and it frees them to focus on genuine coaching as the members of their organization put the lessons to work. My role is to become a member of the coaching team, providing guidance and feedback. This results in a highly efficient change process.
Agile Strategy Execution
Many strategies fail, not because the strategy itself was misguided, but because there is no process to create the new capabilities, culture and processes that will result in the desired performance. If a strategy represents any significant change in direction – new markets, new technologies – it requires new internal capabilities. To execute your strategy, what are the capabilities and culture that are required?
My approach to strategy execution is to engage internal teams in a guided process of redesigning the work processes, the organization structure, the decision processes, information flow, and all the elements that enable the organization to adapt quickly to changes in the external environment, create internal alignment, and to engage the organization in the effort to perform toward strategic goals.
All significant change efforts require both understanding and some degree of change in behavior on the part of leaders. Many lean implementations fail because no one is coaching the senior leaders to adopt new behavior to support the change in culture. I have coached the senior leaders and senior management teams of Shell Oil, American Express, Honeywell and dozens of other companies. Owning and managing my own business for twenty years has also helped me understand the business priorities of senior leaders. I have been able to develop close and confidential relationships with leaders that allows me to be absolutely frank and honest in providing feedback both in terms of their personal leadership behavior and in terms of the progress of change efforts.
It is often useful to assess the current state of the culture. When helping an individual leader improve, it is also helpful to develop an assessment of his or her strengths and weakness. I have developed several surveys based on the qualities of successful lean leaders and culture. Surveys usually need some customization to a client and are best used as a component of a longer term coaching process.
Workshops and Presentations
I am available to lead one to three-day workshops on the subject of lean culture. I have also presented hundreds of key note addresses to corporate meetings and associations. I will be happy to provide possible agendas on your request.
Please feel free to contact me to discuss any needs in regard to managing change in your organization. (LMMiller@lmmiller.com)