To really know who to trust to take your important training needs down the Lean-Agile path, the buyer will have to determine which contractor/supplier to select. The following may help make the best selection.

  • Ensure the contractor/supplier knows the principles of Lean-Agile, and that they are not just mimicking someone else’s Agile method such as Scrum or Kanban. If using request for proposals (RFPs), be sure to leave sufficient page count in your maximum page constraint and require they explain how their methods tie back to the principles of Agile and Lean. This will allow the contractor/supplier to adjust to the specifics of your situation rather than increasing your risk by blindly following someone else’s methods without the proven capability to adapt.

  • Ask how the contractor/supplier has used Lean-Agile before and what they learned and how they adapted during that experience.

  • Be absolutely sure that the contractor/supplier has experience applying Lean-Agile to the training domain and not only the software development domain. There are significant differences.

  • Be sure to find out how they apply the Theory of Constraints (TOC) because it guides the application of Lean exceedingly well. If the contractor/supplier uses TOC to constrain their Lean efforts, you are more likely to achieve your cost and schedule targets than if they use Lean unconstrained.

  • Also, ask how much experience the contractor’s/supplier’s Lean-Agile Coach has. Their coaching of the contractor/supplier cross functional teams will increase the likelihood of success.

  • If using RFPs, be sure to describe your organization’s degree of acceptance of Lean-Agile approaches and ask the contractor/supplier to clearly describe how much Lean-Agile they think is appropriate to your specific circumstances so that the hybrid solution is fit-to-purpose and stands the most chance of success within your organization and with your stakeholders. From their rationale about why they will adapt this or that, you will gain insight into how well they really know Lean-Agile. Those that simply mimic someone else’s method have difficulty synthesizing alternate solutions.

  • The use of martial arts belts as analogies has taken an unfortunate turn in Six Sigma and Lean because many people assume that if some third-party has provided black belt or green belt status that the contractor/supplier is good to go. Rather than looking for some third party black belt in Lean as your primary or only selection criteria, be sure you can distinguish whether the contractor/supplier can perform Lean-Agile like a martial arts black belt or if they simply market well but perform as a white or yellow belt. Because we’re training professionals, we’ll use Bloom’s Taxonomy to reinforce this point. Select a contractor/supplier that can perform Lean-Agile at Bloom’s "creating" level rather than simply the "applying" level.

We suggest reading Velocity: Combining Lean, Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints to Achieve Breakthrough Performance - A Business Novel, by Dee Jacob, Suzan Bergland, and Jeff Cox for an example of Lean carried out by a well-meaning but inexperienced practitioner where the sponsor paid a difficult price for their on-the-job learning. It is based on a manufacturing scenario, but the principles of how to use TOC to constrain Lean are well illustrated in the story.

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