• Ferhan Bulca

    I am an executive leader and a serial intrapreneur focused on innovation and design thinking. My purpose in life is to create products and services that make the world a better place to live in.

    In the course of my career, I have developed a deep understanding and expertise on all aspects of technology commercialization and product/service development. As a result, I have built multi-million dollar businesses from the ground up.

    I am the creator and the Lead Instructor for Business Innovation Certificate Program at University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies.

    I offer business consulting services and I am available as a speaker for private and public events.

    Watch my recent talk at Ashoka Canada's Changemakers event at University of Toronto on YouTube.

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Consulting Tools – Pre-Packaged vs. Custom-Tailored

I am not sure if it is only me but I was tired of consulting firms offering their tools to me when I was in the corporate world. For the most part, I value the contributions of a good consultant. Heck, I am one of them now. However, the ones ticked me off are those who come in with their “tested” methodologies and try to force-fit your problems into their tools. I am talking about lean, six-sigma, so on so forth, which, in my mind, are big names for common-sense toolkits.

Let me recite one of my experiences: One of the companies I used to work at brought in a new CEO, who was expected to turn around the share price that had an undesirable trend. The new CEO was an ex-McKinsey guy. Being well-trained in the McKinsey-way, he immediately deployed a Lean-Sigma initiative across the corporation. The objective, as he put it, was to drive out waste and save money. Now, one of the problems is that the division I was at is a cutting-edge research and development company. Its products define the top-line. Research, that made this possible, and engineering, which turned lab experiments to products, relied on many processes and practices. At a superficial level, some of these practices and processes appeared to be wasteful and the Lean-Sigma teams jumped on them with sparkles of joy in their eyes and claimed early victories. The problem was two-fold:

  1. If these practices were not observed, the main innovation artery of the company would be severed,
  2. The “savings” were so-called “soft savings,” that is the Lean-Sigma teams saved the researchers’ and engineers’ time. Since these are salaried people, there were no real dollars saved. Nobody was let go.

Of course, the processes and practices were continued by staff, who knew better. Also, the “soft savings” subject was being abused by the Lean-Sigma team. The CEO noticed the abundant soft savings, which did not really contribute to his bottom line. Therefore, he corrected the course of the Lean-Sigma teams and asked them to go back to him with hard cold cash savings, and gave them a target. Guess what happened!

First, the target was never met.

Second, the attempts to save hard cash moved the Lean-Sigma teams towards manufacturing and procurement. Nothing related to R&D could get any attention, because all the best and the brightest were assigned to the Lean-Sigma teams. Some liked the idea but most grumbled and went along.

Long story short, the CEO is now gone. During the approximately five years of his tenure, the share price dropped to about 40% of the value from the days he took over.

The morale of the story: I am a firm believer of customizing the solution to the needs and realities of a company that seeks consulting help. When people ask me whether I have some tools that I have branded, I ask them to state their problem first. A tool is only useful when it fits the situation. I thought this was simple and common-sense. I have learned over many years that it is far from common-sense.

I guess this blog entry turned into a bit of a tirade. What do you think? Am I off here?

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