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by Van Fleisher & Todd Ritchey



None of the alphabet-soup concepts listed in the introduction – ABC, BPR, CIP, JIT, TPM, or TQM – will bring holistic, significant, sustainable change on their own if they are carried out mechanically. Plus, they risk failure for two other critical and, sadly, common reasons:  

  1. Programs are often carried out in specific areas of the business, so while a lean program may do well in the production area, the other functions are carrying out the ultimate profit-killer – business as usual.
  2. Improvement programs are seen as discrete activities with start and stop dates. 

Common Sense Management has no stop date, and it’s an opportunity for being a game-changer.  So, what is it, and why will it work?

Common Sense Management differs from common sense, although if you practice CSM, you’ll see the common sense of it. Everything listed below can be addressed through CSM.

  • How obtuse is the concept of doing more, with less, or the same?  In other words, ‘Lean.’

  • Would it be a stretch of the imagination to identify your best production or output hours or days and then do a deep dive into how you achieved those levels and how you can do it again and again, consistently? (BPR)

  • Is it anything other than common sense to believe that if the people who are actually doing the job are consulted, involved in a change program to improve, and then allowed to implement changes, they may feel more ownership of the changes? (CIP)

  • Accurately measuring discrete operations rather than composite, high-level outcomes will help pinpoint areas of opportunity. (ABC)

  • Ensuring that the entire organization is aligned to the goals and objectives of the business. (Balanced Scorecard.)

  • Management styles must evolve along with employee change and mindsets. (CIP.) 

  • Use shorter-term objectives and key results (OKRs) to reach your annual business plans.

  • Engaging and developing people and teams.  (Talent Optimization.)


How to get started with CSM? 

While CSM isn’t a formal program with templates and rules, it’s not dissimilar to a change program in that it’s wide-reaching and should be ongoing. A good change program never ends because it is – or should be – all about improvement. So, the quest goes on unless you’ve reached perfection … and it would take a pretty naïve leader to believe that their company has achieved it. We’ll talk about why change programs fail in the next chapter.  

With any company-wide, ongoing program, we recommend you begin with the Leadership Team, if for no other reason than you’ll probably see ample reasons to carry out some level of change! A good exercise is a discussion of the business’s strategic strengths, weaknesses, and direction. According to MIT-Sloan, you’ll be lucky to find 50% of your team able to list, not necessarily agree, on your company’s top three strategic priorities. We use a simple survey that gets the debate going, and from there, you can add, change, delete, reaffirm, or reassign priorities. 

The strategic re-evaluation is also a good segue into your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Now would be a great time to shore them up if you find weaknesses. Chapter 3 provides some valuable ideas when we discuss Talent Optimization.


Management Consultants…

Do you need them?

Before you consider this question, it’s essential that you have assessed your leadership team’s alignment and focus concerning two objectives:

  1. Have you reached a consensus on the key goals that will enable the business to meet or exceed your plan?
  2. Are you confident that you have the right people on your leadership team and in the right positions, doing the right things to drive the business to achieve those goals? 

If you’ve answered “Yes” to these and still think you need help with management systems, processes, or other areas, maybe a management consultant can help.  However, before you take that step, here are our first two “Laugh or Cry” parables – true stories from our consulting experiences. 

Laugh or Cry #1

During an initial visit to an automotive component manufacturer, we observed a manual inspection position where it appeared that 50% of the brackets produced were being rejected. The inspector confirmed that it was the norm, and we asked the production director if the workers were being paid by the piece. He confirmed, so we asked if they’d considered paying only for acceptable products? His reply left us dumbfounded.


“If we did that, the workers would all complain about why they couldn’t make all good ones.” Imagine that!  

Laugh or Cry #2

A manufacturing company called us near the end of what would be another disappointing financial year for them. They made baby buggies (carriages) and they were, once again, struggling with their forecasts for the new year.


As we looked at previous years’ forecasts, we noticed that one of the salespeople had remarkably accurate forecasts for the past two years. We were given the green light to speak with him and were advised that he was actually the production director.


When we asked him to describe his process, he said, “Simple. I have a single customer – the country’s largest retailer of baby products. After I receive the other forecasts from the sales department and discount their overly ambitious goals, I calculate how much product I can make and therefore how much I can supply to my customer.”


We asked, “Does your customer ever ask for more than that?”


The production director replied without blinking, “Yes. All the time. They’d take twice as much.” 


We debriefed the CEO and his face turned bright red. He clearly understood the importance of making his best customer a priority, but he had just learned a critical CSM lesson: Find out the “how and why” when something occasionally goes well.

If you’re still tempted to bring in consultants, let’s give you some further food for thought to see if you really need them.

We worked in consulting for a long time, and we know we helped many clients,  but most of the time, CSM would have done the job without the cost. Those two examples show how not communicating and listening to your workforce can cost a lot of money, with or without consultants.

In writing this book, one of our objectives is to help leaders decide when and if it’s the right time to bring in management consultants, so let’s start with the question, “Who and what is a management consultant?” 

A cynical answer might be the one that came from an unusual source, Joseph Brady, the former president of the now-defunct Association of Management Consulting Firms. “Anybody without a job and $6.99 can buy 100 calling cards and go into the business.” 

If Brady’s comment seems out of line, here is Laugh or Cry #3:

During the first week of a potentially large project with a major civil engineering firm, the client’s Managing Partner called the consulting company’s Project Manager into his office to advise him that he was canceling the engagement immediately. 


The Project Manager was surprised and asked, “Why?” 


The Managing Partner explained that one of his senior colleagues had engaged one of the consultants in a conversation about quality control, a subject near and dear to his heart as he served as the country’s Quality Foundation president. Perplexed by the consultant’s replies to his questions, he asked about her experience. The consultant, without any hesitation, explained that she had been a hairstylist … until last week! That prompted the concerned civil engineer to speak with another consultant who revealed that he’d been a stocker at a local supermarket until recently. 


Despite the laughs or cries, engaging a management consultant can be helpful, but at the risk of repeating ourselves, it shouldn’t be instead of CSM.  We’ll try to help you with your decisions, and we’ll provide some caveats along the way. 

Ask yourself these CSM questions before embarking on a project: 

  1. Vision: Is your objective or goal clear? Is success well-defined? Do you have alignment? How deep and wide is it within the organization?

  2. Skills: Do you have the right people with the right skills to (help) drive it through?

    NOTE: Interestingly, these first two questions might benefit from outside help.

  3. Motivation: Are all the stakeholders motivated, or just senior management? Is the CEO both onboard and committed?

  4. Resources: Do you have adequate people and financial resources?

  5. Viable Action Plan: Is there a solid plan and comprehensive buy-in?

If the answers to any of these are not “Yes,” confusion, anxiety, resistance, frustration, and procrastination may result. Failure is almost assured with or without a consultant.

Here are some of the right reasons to consider consultants:

  • Businesses are often too busy – or too easily distracted – to consistently drive through significant change programs. They can start them, but finishing has a low success rate.

  • Using a consultant as a fractional resource instead of hiring someone. An outsider can often spot the commonsense aspects. A new hire can quickly lose that ability. Plus, a consulting gig usually has an end date, whereas an employee becomes an ongoing cost.

  • Particularly for larger projects and transformations, many businesses lack the skills, commitment, and resources to implement holistic, meaningful, and sustainable change at an optimal pace. That pace of a change program is critical. How many of your employees have change management skills?

  • Internal change programs often just scratch the surface. They leave a significant amount of lost value on the table and aren’t strong drivers of results.

  • Paying a consultant a hefty fee often keeps the project on the front burner, as well as sustaining the interest of the CEO. 

So, if you decide that you do need – or want – outside help, consider the following:

  • Choose a consulting company that’s right for the task. The company that installed your new IT platform did a good job doesn’t mean they can help your sales team. The British have an expression, “Horses for courses,” and it’s very commonsensical. You don’t want to enter a Clydesdale in the Kentucky Derby, nor do you want your high-strung thoroughbred pulling a plow. Make sure you get the right horses. 

  • The quality or skill sets of consultants vary enormously. Many consulting companies hire people with no requisite skills and then “hide” them on a project, billing at full rates and giving those “consultants” what amounts to very expensive – to the client – on-the-job training. The consulting project manager might well be the only trained person on the team. Ask for resumes/CVs that detail what client consulting jobs they’ve done, and then check them out. 

  • Very few management consulting companies commit to specific deliverables, and even if they do, they may not be concerned with a sustainable result. The world is littered with project outcomes that lasted just months or even weeks after the consultants left. 

Key Takeaways from Chapter 1

  1. Don’t just high-five a great day, week, or month. Sit down with the people involved and determine what made it happen. Plan to repeat and improve.

  2. Value your employees. Ask for inputs, listen to, and implement the great ideas from the “shop floor.” Not only will your business improve – your employees will become more engaged and go after more. As consultants, we would return to our former projects, and when we spoke with the people doing the work, a common refrain would be, “Look how we made this even better all by ourselves!”

  3. Do frequent “check-ins” with your leadership team. See if you’re all on the same page and addressing the right things.

  4. Ensure your top team is the right team, focused on the right things.

  5. Agree on your OKRs and develop an approach to ensure alignment and success.
About the Author

Van has worked in over 30 countries helping large companies and small. Author, mentor, board member, CEO, and team leader have been some of his job titles, but his passion is helping businesses succeed through their own employees' efforts.

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