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Why business consultants should never be hired a second time

Newton Europe : 10 October, 2014  (Technical Article)
Improvement specialist Newton Europe explains its approach to business consultancy and why it matters to get processes right the first time
Why business consultants should never be hired a second time

An improvement specialist which trains clients so that they never need the services of an improvement specialist again may sound crazy to some, but Adrian Cunliffe, Business Manager at Newton Europe, explains their approach.

We work with client teams, on-site, assessing their processes, designing change and implementing it. But doing our job well – really well – means empowering those clients to successfully drive change without us. That’s the ultimate goal of our improvement programmes and it’s especially relevant within the defence sector.

We are currently just over halfway through a programme of work with Rolls-Royce to help further improve its manufacturing to become as efficient and quality-focused as possible, whilst delivering on time. We’ve had some great results in localised areas which have targeted specific problems. We are now looking towards the phase of the programme that focuses on developing the local team. It’s arguably the most important phase, because if done right, it will achieve results that will last long after we’ve gone.

To do this successfully we need to pass on the right skills, knowledge and culture to ensure the changes we make are sustainable. It’s our job to bring to the table an initial drive for change and a challenge to the status quo, but it’s also our job to leave our client teams with the skills to do the same. Our aim is to engage them in how to deliver improvement projects and increase the skills of everyone, from managers and internal improvement teams through to shop floor workers – training people to do the job we do.

With every Newton programme we invariably run an on-site training and coaching workstream. In response to demand, we’ve also started running separate, three-week client training courses which involve teaching participants from our HQ in Oxfordshire, as well as sending them out in the field alongside Newton people to work on other improvement programmes in different sectors. Some clients have even seconded their staff to us for a time.

Rolls-Royce already has one of the best recruitment processes in the sector and so we already have a great team of smart, engaged people to work with. The challenge lies in the intricacy of submarine work and the processes around it. It’s an incredibly complex environment with low volumes - every build is bespoke, requiring very specific, technical, high quality materials.

The key is to focus on the end part of the project – the handover – early on in the improvement programme. Involving and immersing the client team from the beginning, giving them ownership and accountability so they are fully part of the change before it even starts to occur.

Part of the reason Rolls-Royce Submarines business brought Newton on board is because they had already worked with us in other areas of the company. They knew we had the skills to implement fast yet meaningful, sustainable change, with the line leadership, ownership and accountability on a project as complicated as the submarine programme. Holding regular, structured reviews with senior management and line leaders, helping to establish a business as usual, sustained process.

In one previous Rolls-Royce assignment we reduced upstream procurement processes significantly. In another, we worked at resolving stops and holds within production – avoiding technical problems that delay delivery. Through driving an effective resolution process and fully engaging the local team, we helped reduce the number of stops and holds within 5 months. Better yet, after we left the programme, the team continued to build on the change and initiatives to solve further problems. They have since achieved greater results than we ever did on-site, meaning they’re unlikely to need us back again in the future.

And believe it or not, that’s music to an improvement specialist’s ears.

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