How To Become an Internal Consultant
by Russ Westcott
This article is not about how to become an external consultant—it is about enriching your quality job by assuming a role of internal consultant.
In reality, many of you are already doing this, but you just haven’t acknowledged your role or woven it into your professional development. You can become an internal consultant whether you’re a quality inspector, calibration expert, quality engineer or other quality professional.
Quality inspector. As a quality inspector, you can provide operators with on-the-job training about how to ascertain the quality of a product. If you’re really successful at this, you could work yourself out of this training job as operators become proficient in self-inspection.
Calibration expert. As a calibration expert, you can teach operations staff members how to care for and check their instruments. You can also continually research new and improved measuring devices and make purchase recommendations to operations management.
Quality engineer. As a quality engineer, you can develop an alliance with operations and service management to help identify areas for process improvement. You can help your colleagues plan and implement process improvement projects.
You can offer to facilitate a cross functional process improvement team or serve as liaison between external consultants and internal operations on a process reengineering initiative.
You can volunteer to serve as the designated “management representative” for an ISO 9001 quality management system implementation. You can plan and implement a program to instruct all employees in the basic principles, techniques and tools of quality, lean operations and Six Sigma.
You can demonstrate to upper management the value of having your expertise involved in the organization’s strategic planning process. You can establish a knowledge database of quality lessons learned, quality techniques and tools, and resources. You can establish yourself as a champion for preparing and applying for a Baldrige type award.
Other quality professional. Whe-ther you are the resident Master Black Belt, new product quality engineer, supplier auditor or quality technician, you can expand your designated sphere of influence. Assume an internal consulting type of position in which your knowledge, experience, skills, aptitude and attitude proactively demonstrate your value to your organization.
Go to Gemba
Get out from behind your desk, your clipboard and your control charts. “Go to gemba,” as Masaaki Imai insists.1 Gemba is a Japanese word for the workplace or where the action is. Observe where process improvement could help. Partner with the management of the area involved and jointly produce an improvement payoff.
Learn the language of management (strategy and finance) and serve as a key communication pathway between higher management and operations. Show management how you can make a contribution to organizational strategic planning and deployment.
Unleash your creative and innovative attributes. Reach out for opportunities to enrich your job and those with whom you come in contact. Approach a colleague as someone willing to help to jointly bring about positive change. Make your team effort, not just yourself, the star. Gratefully share credit for successes, giving more than you take.
If your organization doesn’t have a formal reporting process, institute a weekly or semimonthly “items of interest” report to your boss. State the opportunities you have had to work with colleagues in improving processes. Don’t create a brag list but simply chronicle the work in which you have been involved, with whom and the outcome.
Be careful the work you do beyond that stated or presumed to be your job duties does not cause you to neglect your primary duties. As time passes and successes are noticed, you may be able to seek a redefinition of your job—perhaps a higher grade and salary.
In case you wondered, in spite of the risk involved, I have personally succeeded in turning every job I’ve ever held for employers into a part-time internal consulting position. It was a lot more fun, professionally stimulating and paid off in advancements.
- Masaaki Imai, Gemba Kaizen: A Common-ssense, Low-Cost Approach to Management, McGraw-Hill, 1997.
RUSSELL T. WESTCOTT, president of R.T. Westcott & Associates, Old Saybrook, CT, guides clients in strategic planning, implementing quality management systems and project management. He is an ASQ Fellow and certified quality auditor and manager. Westcott co-edited The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, and authored Simplified Project Management for the Quality Professional and The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excel-lence, third edition. All were published by ASQ Quality Press.