Interesting Lean Position Posting in Boston


    With permission from the recruiter, posting this as a free service. As a blog reader, does it add value to see a job posting once in a while? Give me feedback under “Comments.” I'm posting this because it looked like an interesting role. Please contact the recruiter directly and let him know you saw it on the Lean Blog.

    Wanted: Director of Operational Excellence – Boston

    Our Boston based retained client, with revenue quickly approaching $200MM per year with 20-30% annual growth, is a “hi-end” consumer products company that is very focused on driving customer service and product excellence. The company's executive leadership team is actively supporting an Operational Excellence initiative within the business as a means to bring world class performance to their operation. Our client views their Operational Excellence initiative as a key driver and growth enabler for their unique business model.

    The ideal candidate will be well versed in applying Lean throughout the entire value stream, including operations, distribution, and all customer facing processes. Prior experience with Six Sigma, supply chain management and service oriented operations is considered to be a major plus for this key role.

    In this key role, the Director of Operational Excellence will be a member of the core management leadership team reporting directly the company COO.

    We will be more than happy to share the details of this search with the right candidate who meets our client's critical to quality requirements for this role.

    If you don't know of someone you can refer to us, would you please pass this on to a friend, colleague or associate whom you consider might be closer to knowing this type of person? We appreciate your consideration in sharing this great opportunity.

    All the best,

    Tim Noble

    Managing Principal

    The Avery Point Group, Inc.

    80 Coogan Blvd – Suite # 1

    Mystic, Connecticut 06355

    P: 860-536-8605 Ext: 101

    F: 860-536-8303

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. Perhaps we can use this ad as one of those pictures that challenges you to find the ‘hidden objects’, or in this case, to see how many red flags pop up when you read it.

      Red Flag #1 – they mention ‘operations’, ‘supply chain’ and ‘distribution’, but not production or manufacturing. The “unique business model” smells like nothig more unique than outsourcing all of the value adding for their consumer products.

      Red Flag #2 – The Director of Operational Excellence will drive world class results, instead of the functional managers? When lean is a staff function, rather than an integral part of each manager’s job, the likelihood of success is pretty bleak.

      Red Flag #3 – Six Sigma? Sounds like they expect to attain excellence one project at a time.

      It’s an intersting post to the blog, Mark. I think you can tell a lot about a company by reading their help wanted ads. In this one, I would advise an applicant to carefully gauge his or her ability to affect a radical change in senior management thiking before taking the job. It smells to me like the COO has a way to go before he ‘gets it’.

    2. Me thinks you read too much into things, Bill.

      It doesn’t say “The Director of Operational Excellence will drive world class results.” You’re misquoting it. It says leadership is supporting lean and six sigma in order to drive world-class results.

      Granted, everything you say MIGHT be true, Bill, but we don’t know for sure until someone takes that job.

      Everything you say is true — line managers must drive lean, not a “lean manager” group. The COO and CEO had better be leading lean, rather than just “sponsoring it” or “being behind it” (as Jamie Flinchbaugh likes to say). There can be value to a lean staff function, when used properly. Even Toyota has a central group that is responsible for TPS and lean methods.

    3. Since our firm is the one behind the posting of this position I would like to refute the quote “red flags”:

      Supposed Red Flag #1 The word “operations” is meant to include production and manufacturing. The phase “unique business model” refers to how they go to market and how they differentiate themselves from others in the same market.

      Supposed Red Flag #2 Mark, I think you handled this one already

      Supposed Red Flag #3 The request for Six Sigma knowledge is one based on the fact that they want talent that has a broad based tool set of knowledge. One only need look at posted jobs on the major jobs boards and you will find that almost half of the lean jobs posted also want talent to possess six sigma knowledge. Increasingly companies are recognizing that they require a broad base of tools to solve their business challenges. Yes, companies what to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to hiring talent. I can’t blame them. From a candidate’s perspective, it goes without saying that a candidate should do their due diligence before they hire on, but do it from the perspective of and open mind. There is true commitment with this organization and they are also learning as they travel on their lean journey.

      Overall I’m a little surprised that a “lean practitioner” would jump to conclusions / criticize so quickly about a position, a company, and its leadership with so little data. The true lean practitioners that I have worked with over my executive career have always taught me to have an open mind and never be too quick to criticize… this is particularly true when it come to participating in a kaizen. Bottom line, I have never found cynicism and lean to mix very well.

    4. What does lean suggest we do? Go to gemba – directly observe. I don’t think we should draw any conclusions from a help wanted add, but go and see how they really behave and really work. That’s the “real” facts and data. Consider that most help wanted notices are written by the HR professionals, and as our research has indicated, HR is in general very much not engaged in the lean journey. They can only guess what is really needed in many cases.

      I don’t know this company, so I won’t comment on the posting. But my suggestion for those people out there looking for a job. GO TO THE GEMBA. Go and see for yourself. But don’t just get a guided tour. Do the same kind of deep observation as you would if you were fixing a process problem; only then will you know what you are getting into. There are few decisions in life more important than choosing what job to take. Of course, it’s not as important as deciding who to marry.

    5. I did not state anything conclusively about the job. I know nothing about it. I only suggested that there is some wording in the ad that behooves a candidate to be careful – ask tough questions and to not assume that because the hiring company has a lot of buzzwords down pat they really know what it takes to become lean, and stands ready to support the candidate.

      Mr. Noble, I think the strength of a lean practicianer is to challenge and question EVERYTHING. With a 90%+ lean failure rate, the odds of the CEO really knowing what is expected of him and his organization to become lean are slim. A candidate going in with the assumption that this is one of the few who “Get it” until proven otherwise is very naive. It is better to assume the company doesn’t get it, and accurately assess the size of the task it will take to bring them around.

      Perhaps being cynical does not mix when “participating in a kaizen” event, but then again, kaizen events don’t contribute much to becoming lean. If the hiring company is looking for a happy participant in kaizen events and six sigma projects, rather than someone to lead the tough work of leading fundamental changes at the core of their management and execution model, that should be discerned by the applicant at the outset.

      You’re right – six sigma is a tool that can have value in a lean effort. However, it is only one tool, and it happens to be the buzzword Wall Street analysts love the most, even though they, as a group, understand neither lean nor six sigma. Citing this tool only out of the great big lean tool bag should raise concerns. The fact that over half the lean ads call for six sigma knowledge speaks more to the ignorance of managers concerning lean than the value of six sigma to lean.

      Jamie is absolutley correct. Anyone responding to this ad should insist on getting out into the shop/distribution floor and see for themselves. It will take an experienced lean person about two minutes to determine whether the company really understands lean or not.


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