Published: 17 May 2021

What's best, a Lean Consultant or Coach?



Here at BTA our consultants take on a different role when assigned to a client, that of coach or Sensei.  The sensei style approach is in recognition that lean is not something that we teach or something that we do to people, it is about the understanding and the practice.  This approach is aimed at educating people, it is not about making them apply rules or methods, hoping they’ll assimilate them, but to create experiences for people so they get outside of their comfort zone and figure out things differently by themselves under the guidance of their coach.


Why do we do what we do?

Here at BTA we establish long term relationships with clients and work on true lean transformation.  It is fair to say that there are a lot of people out there teaching lean tools and running training classes, but we are in it for the long haul and not the quick win, we are there for the journey and develop long standing partnerships to do just that. 



Our Approach

Is not about telling you what to do or solving your problems for you but to point you towards opportunities to improve the current situation. Due to our industry experience and knowledge of Lean thinking we can identify improvement potential within your processes that may not be visible to the untrained eye. We will help you to see an opportunity that we think is important for you to address, and guide you through tackling it, observing what you try or don’t, and then discussing the type of solutions you sought, encouraging some and discouraging others whilst ensuring the PDCA process has been followed correctly.

What happens within the workplace?

Respect for people is a fundamental within any change programme and is a natural consequence of trying to do challenging things – the harder it gets, the more you need the people on board within your team. BTA coaches engage individuals in solving the challenges or problems identified, as without engagement you can't move forward.  Listening skills are essential, we listen carefully to the obstacles encountered and offer support, and ensure results are shared (positive and negative). This allows us to demonstrate that people can learn from their own discoveries, to grow even deeper teamwork within the team.


BTA understand that it is really important to create a safe environment for learning – both physical and emotional.  Everyone understands that having a safe environment is important for our physical health, however, within a lean culture you also need a safe environment for making mistakes, identifying problems and proposing ideas and solutions.


The following examples demonstrate fostering fear and fostering a safe emotional environment in response to a shortfall within production.

Fostering Fear – “You only made 100 pieces! Why didn’t you make the 120 pieces that you were supposed to?”

Fostering Safety – “We were supposed to make 120 and we only managed 100.  What problems did you encounter and how can I help?”

Phycological safety is promoted by all BTA coaches, encouraging active involvement from everyone and assisting in the development of a culture that accelerates performance improvements.  


So, how can you tell a good Lean Coach from a bad one?

(Or, in the current situation, a good coach calling themselves a  consultant from consultants calling themselves coaches, as the terminology is not settled yet).

A good coach is one that understands there is no set process for making a good decision, every case will be different. A good coach will understand that you can’t ever “teach” lean to someone, and that infact you look to explore with them what lean means in their situation and discover with them where that takes you.

A good coach will be steeped in the lean tradition and has seen the principles at work in many varied situations across many industries. Finally, pragmatically, good lean coaches can to be arduous, so a good coach for you is one you get along with. It’s a journey of discovery together, so the relationship is essential! Finding the right person will be part of your learning journey, and very much your own personal standard.

Important points to remember:

- Lean is not a religion, it’s a practice. 
- Lean can’t be learned in books; it’s learning by doing. 
- Lean studies by professors won’t teach you much – you need to get stuck in at the gemba.
- Lean is not something you do to someone, it is something you practice with someone
- Lean teaching happens when it is applied within the students  conditions. 
- Lean is never known, it’s always learned.

As a Lean Coaches BTA essentially have two main missions:

1) To solve a problem for you

Working with you on the key business issues that exist within the organisation we look to assist you and your teams in solving problems using lean methodologies and a practical process that delivers results.

2) To increase the productivity of your teams 

Working with your teams we look to identify and implement more productive processes.

However, in both of the above cases it is fair to say that consultants are sometimes used by top management to substitute for failings of middle management and to get things done. Consulting is an extractive Industry as specialists are used to extract more value out of people and operations, whereas lean is fundamentally inclusive, showing the people themselves how to create more value while generating less waste.

Lean Consultant or Lean Coach?

Consider a different approach to developing your employees, a one that's been proven to work and deliver results, by educating rather than qualifying your people.

Published: 17 May 2021