The popcorn test: You don't need me, not for most things (#29)
Today’s subject: Call a consultant when you should, not just when you can.
My son and I share a love of the movies, which explains why I received a nudge in the ribs and an invitation to inspect the salty remnants of his popcorn bag. I knew that he'd been happily munching throughout the movie (itself a violation of the wittertainment code of conduct), what I didn't know was that he'd been carefully marshalling the unpopped kernels into a corner of the bag in readiness for a moan.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy he moaned, very happy given my career choice. Post-rib nudge I could only agree that he, as a paying customer, shouldn't have to pay for the 20 or so unpopped kernels representing a 2-3% yield loss.
[Two points of note (i) lean wasn't actually a career choice, I just ended up here (ii) he's never paid for a bag of popcorn in his life, that's my job apparently]
There's nothing groundbreaking about his identification of this particular waste except that, by my reckoning, he's ahead of 90% of the crowd purely because he's prepared to question the status quo. "Why can't we..." are three of my favourite words.
At the risk of sounding like a turkey voting for Christmas, there's no point calling a consultant like me to help if:
(a) You aren't prepared to harvest the unpopped kernels and point at them, dissatisfied
(b) You won't then talk to the people creating the popcorn to find out why
(c) You're not prepared to change stuff & run small scale trials to find a better way
Otherwise, call me as I'm very good at what I do. Seriously though, consultants are useful where either:
You have that many problems you don't know where to start to alleviate the pain that you or your customers are feeling OR
You've spotted a problem but currently lack capability in your team to frame, analyse & solve it & standardise a robust but practical countermeasure into your daily activities.
Don't underestimate the power of just having a go yourself though. As long as you don't jeopardise safety of your people or quality, run a trial as everything else is just good learning.
In summary, call for external help to solve a problem once, but never pay us twice to solve the same type of problem with the same team. That would be a failure to transfer knowledge on our behalf.
Salty popcorn, by the way, is the work of the devil. Madness.