Procurement Needs to Lead Process Improvement Transformation

By Tom DePaoli

April 01, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Often companies make the grievous mistake of not letting procurement select or source the consultant or consulting group to lead process improvement. Lean Six Sigma and Lean are too important to leave in the hands of other departments not familiar with the comprehensive evaluation of a bid or a proposal. In fact, procurement or supply management not only should lead the selection, but lead the entire process improvement transformation. Nothing can have more financial gain for a company than improvements in the supply chain! Here are some hard learned selection lessons.

Experience trumps everything in selecting a Lean Six Sigma or Lean consultant. It’s critical that the consultant you hire has multiple experiences with multiple projects. Verification by checking with former clients is essential. Beware of consultants who want to charge exorbitant fees for all the process improvement training belt classes. You can quickly master this training internally for employees to become at least an entry level Green Belt by using the train-the-trainer concept. Belt certifications differ from company to company. Insist on training effectiveness data from the consultant and examples of successful projects and tools used in their methodology. There are hundreds of improvement tools that could possibly be used in the process improvement. There are however only about 30-40 that are used most frequently and are the most effective.

Strongly consider a fixed hourly rate especially for training, but remember that you get what you pay for. Make sure you can retain all the training materials developed during the process. Many of the available training materials are generic, and you will want to retain any customized ones for your company. Make sure the consultant understands that you will demand process improvement self-sufficiency in two years or sooner.

The consultant’s people skills must be superb. Initially many members of a process improvement team are hostile to the process and transformation until they understand it. Strive to make the contract performance-based on the savings of the projects rather than amount of training delivered or other parameters that they suggest. Consider jointly developing online training courses that can be used with much greater flexibility. Process improvement meeting organization and facilitation skills are indispensable. Insist on sitting in on a live meeting that the consultant conducts like a kaizen. Observing a consultant in action is one of the best ways to judge their skills. Make sure the consultant can fit into your organization's culture and adapt to your organization's standards and norms. Nothing destroys process improvement initiatives faster than cultural mismatches.

Finally prepare your organization for the process improvement transformation. The most successful proven way to make process improvement initiatives work is to make employees accountable for it. In other words tie their cooperation, progress and training in process improvement directly to their pay or raises. You must financially incentivize it for them. Other so-called persuasive or cooperative approaches have a much higher failure rate.


Tags: purchasing Strategic sourcing Supply management Procurement Lean manufacturing training Six Sigma
Category: Blog Post

Tom DePaoli


Dr. Tom DePaoli is the Management Program Director at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisc., and the Principal (CEO) of which does general business consulting in the supply chain, Lean Six Sigma and human resources areas. Recently he retired from the Navy Reserve after more than 30 years of service. In other civilian careers, he was a supply chain and human resources executive with corporate purchasing turnaround experience and Lean Six Sigma deployments. He is the author of eight books and numerous articles. His Amazon author’s page is


Please add a comment

You must be logged in to leave a reply. Login »

Related Content

Thought Leadership and the Demise of Your Third-Party MRO Outsourcing Program: Part 4

George E. Krauter

When one defines third-party MRO (3PMRO) success, one assumes that fundamental operations are being executed and that expectations are being met (i.e., ROI goals are surpassed} Read More

Guidance for Addressing the New Talent Acquisition Challenge

Dennis Bouley

The US Labor Department reported in March of this year that there were 6.6 million job openings, a record high. Although most of us applaud these numbers Read More

Millennials in Supply Chain Management Seek Advancement and Development Opportunities

Marisa Brown

Millennials working in the supply chain management field don’t fit the mold that the older generation assumes for them. APQC’s recent study Read More

Supplier Profiles


Staples Advantage is the one supplier that offers all the business solutions you need, all with the expertise of a specialty vendor. Read More


It started in 1972 with an idea, a new concept in distribution. Today, Digi-Key Corporation is one of the fastest-growing electronic component distributors in the World. The stimulus for this growth is Digi-Key's customer-centered business philosophy… Read More

Lunney Advisory Group

Lunney Advisory Group was founded in 2007. Our firm is not your typical consulting company. Some members of our firm are highly qualified and experienced industry executives/practitioners while others are full time or adjunct university professors.… Read More


What CEOs Expect Of Purchasing

Guest Contributor

Procurement and supply management leaders have a seat at the table, and management’s expectations are high. But what do CEOs really want, and is purchasing delivering on these expectations? This webcast looks at how procurement and supply management … Read More

Growing Purchasing Influence On Indirect Spending

Guest Contributor

At world-class companies, purchasing’s influence touches just about every area of spending. But, how exactly do procurement teams get to the point where other departments approach them for help with sourcing such indirect categories as human resource… Read More

Procurement-Finance Collaboration

Guest Contributor

Procurement & finance are two business functions which are often at loggerheads with each other. One reason for this is the lack of perception alignment on an important metric of procurement and finance performance - 'savings'. Read More