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Time to get LEAN
11/12/2008

Bring on the consultants...

Let the cost cutting begin. Many companies have started the predictable habit of calling in the consultants to tell them how to cut costs (usually people) and the yelling is being heard all over the country. While we all tend to get a little "fat" in the good times, we also tend to over-react in the tough times.

Truthfully, we really like to bring others in to do the "dirty" work and validate suspicions of excess we secretly knew existed in the first place. The problem with this is that we cut too deep and set ourselves up for difficult times as we recover with the economy.

This approach has two major problems. First, we insult the leadership we have in place by hinting that they have been managing poorly. We don't listen to our own people but we will certainly pay (significantly) to have others come in and say what we really knew all along. Second, the very people we need to cut the costs become afraid and withdraw rather than offer ideas and suggestions that will often cut the same costs if not more. There is another way.

Great companies realize that while we may have to tighten our belt, the best ideas for cutting costs come from the people that have a vested interest in staying on the team. That's correct, the best source for cost reductions may already be on your payroll.

Teach them to fish...

Think about the potential that exists within your own team. Imagine what can happen if you teach them concepts such as working lean, 5S and other proven methodologies to reduce costs. Imagine what can happen if you engage your entire workforce and arm them with tools to explore every nook and cranny of your organization for even the smallest bits of process and cost opportunities.

What if your employees took ownership of their own fate to help your company weather the challenges of this market? I think most companies tend to "dumb down" the very people they depend on. In other words, the only good ideas must come from someone other than those on our team. That is absolutely crazy!

What if... What if we taught every employee on the team look for waste? What if we taught every employee to look for problems with our processes? What if we taught our people to brainstorm ideas that will allow the same output with less?

If all your competitors are cutting the human capital from their teams, imagine what you will be able to do if you can retain so much of what makes your company special. Think about doing the opposite of what every other average company is tempted to do during these challenging economic times!

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