It seems everyone’s looking for Ninjas and the like these days… shout out to Irv Grossman for sharing and dubbing me the SC Ninja.  This, of course, is the stroke of genius that is this (my) blog!  Check out the WSJ’s article below!

Wall Street Journal – Ninjas and Jedis Wanted

I wanted to continue my first post on being an effective consultant with this — the sequel.  What I mentioned before greatly hinges on the ability to quickly learn but adaptation and becoming a SC Ninja is more than learning.  Another attribute and key ingredient to being an effective consultant is blending in, too.  I mentioned “blending in” earlier but want to touch on this a bit more.


Clients and stakeholders typically aren’t likely to care much for your fancy clothes, fancy cars, whatever.  In fact, fancy clothing and fancy cars (rental or otherwise) can actually be a strong turn off and even lead clients to believe they’re paying too much.  The Great Recession has reignited the need for clients to cut costs.  Sometimes, clients need consultants to help identify those costs, but they aren’t willing to net zero when the costs for consultants are so much more.  So when entering any project, be sure to know what the dress code is like at the client site.  Don’t overdress.  I’ve heard before to dress no more than a half-step above.  So if the client wears jeans and polos, you can typically wear the same; however, it can be advisable to wear a pair of slacks and a button-up.  If the client wears ties, wear a tie… with a blazer if you so choose.  And if the rental car company upgrades you to a BMW or other high-end brand, opt for a less-fancy vehicle.  

Along with blending in, you’ll need to also understand and mimic the culture.  When I say culture, I don’t necessarily mean dietary habits.  Instead, I’m referring to being able to also act and speak the same language.  Being an effective consultant, SC Ninja, or even a secret agent, you need you blend in as if you’re one with the crowd.  You don’t see James Bond rapping when he walks into a ballroom full of rich villains, right?  Same with being a consultant, you need to be able to match the intellect and language of the clients.  Or at least, act like them.  If you’re a consultant, you’re probably bright.  Don’t outshine the client.    You always want to portray yourself as intelligent — that’s why they paid for your services.  However, you don’t want that intelligence to be off-putting and make clients feel “stupid” or “inferior.  If the client is conservative or highly professional, likewise, don’t walk in boisterous and start cussing.  In fact, it’s best you don’t cuss unless the client is pretty expletive-friendly, too, and you’ve developed a good rapport with the client.

In short, to be an effective consultant, think of what a Supply Chain Ninja would do or a secret agent.  Blend in.  Don’t stand out.  These keys are essential, especially when you’re in an environment when you know the client is not as up-to-speed as yourself or your team.  Be the Ninja.

To be an effective consultant, supply chain or otherwise, you have to be able to adapt.  As a Supply Chain Ninja, I have to be a chameleon… to be able to blend into my surroundings and new engagements.  Otherwise, you end up sticking out like a sore thumb and you don’t pick up new projects quickly.  You must be able to adapt and to learn on-the-fly.  This… this is the key to being an effective Supply Chain Ninja.

One example of this: 
I had one project with a Major Steel Tube Producer and Manufacturer.  The client was looking for operational and systemic improvements in the warehouse co-located within its steel mill.  However, I had limited experience in the steel industry.  As a project team, we were completely transparent with the Client’s Executive Team in our relative limited experience in the steel industry; however, we had a plethora of experience and qualifications in warehouse operations.  

To be effective and deliver exceptional results, we utilized our past experiences to relay warehousing’s core concepts.  Nuances always exist that differentiate client to client and project to project.  In the end, in warehouses and other business processes, core concepts are the same and “portable”… a pick’s a pick, a bin’s a bin, and picking strategies are crucial to the operations.  

As effective Supply Chain Ninjas, each team member was able to pick up the critical elements of the steel company and industry while marrying key warehouse concepts to identify the areas of opportunities in a relatively short time frame.  In the end, we partnered with the key stakeholders to deliver recommendations for bundling (picking and loading) strategies and  integration points for a warehouse management system implementation.