Finding an ISO, Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Malcolm Baldrige or CMMI quality consultant to help improve an organization’s performance or achieve a quality management system certification is not as easy as you might think. In fact, the process can be quite time-consuming!
But before you begin searching for a quality consultant, be sure you recognize the likely resource impact on your company. For example, if your firm wants to become ISO 9001 certified, be prepared to allocate people and time to make this happen. An outside consultant can provide guidance and training, but your employees must do the actual work in creating a quality management system. Expect several months of effort to be ready for an ISO registration audit, and be prepared to support ongoing maintenance activities thereafter. The ultimate payoff for achieving ISO certification is significant, but the ultimate cost is much more than just the consultant’s fees.
So, if you are ready to perform a search for an experienced quality consultant, you can reduce the effort by being specific in your search engine criteria:
- You are going to be charged for consultant travel and lodging expenses. So it is best to pick a reasonably local consultant if practical. For instance, if your organization is located in Los Angeles, you would be better off selecting a California consultant over a New York one to contain costs. Try putting your search phrase in quotes (e.g., “Find ISO consultant in California”) to help the search engine zero in on your needs.
- Now there are several types of ISO, so help the search engine by including the exact certification you are seeking, such as “Find ISO 9001 consultant in California.”
Even then, you may not discover all the available consultants that could satisfy your needs. Not all Websites are equal in the eyes of search engines. They rank each differently depending upon a plethora of criteria which add up to their unique definition of “popularity.” You could have the perfect consultant living ten minutes away and he may not show up in your search results because his Website is new or does not contain enough incoming links to satisfy Google’s ranking formula.
That is why Internet users often turn to specific online directories to find consultants that can meet their specific requirements. Unfortunately, the directories for quality consultants are typically incomplete and buried in some other Website. Even the Open Directory (which used by Google) is dramatically incomplete because of their long delays in accepting new entries, if ever. Quality Digest offers a fairly good directory, but it is often difficult to find an up-to-date version on the Internet. Moreover, because they charge for entries, many excellent consulting firms fail to appear.
Once you identify a short list of candidates, however, it remains your responsibility to perform due diligence by reviewing information and qualifications on their Websites. Consultant experience, customer lists and references are a good way to narrow down the list of those you wish to interview. Ideally, pick two-to-three consulting firms to interview and prepare proposals. And remember, the cheapest consultant is not always the best answer!
Choosing the right quality consultant for your organization is not a process you want to rush. After all, you will be making a considerable investment in time, resources and money. In addition to professional experience and expertise, ultimate success usually depends on establishing rapport and a good working relationship with your quality consultant.