Effective Consulting - SDBS
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Effective Consulting

Why do consultants come and go, but nothing changes?

Expectation and reality

Consulting has already been part and parcel of business for more than a century.

Global management consulting market reached 132.6 billion dollars in the USA in 2016 according to the research of Statista agency.
However, experience has shown that not all the companies are satisfied with the results of expensive projects.

Representatives of clients on different organisation levels face a situation, when project results do not meet neither their expectations, nor amounts of money spent on them. This problem has existed since the very appearance of consulting services and in 1982 A.N. Turner published an article "Consulting is more than giving advice", in which he described the ways of solving this problem. The problems and solutions described in the article are relevant even 35 years later, please see its summary below.

Client’s role

Often, customers believe that the cost of projects allows to transfer the entire amount of work to consultants without involving their employees at all. Because of such approach, a huge number of projects fail, and the client's employees do not see any usefulness in them.

Hierarchy of values

A.N. Turner identified a spectrum of services which consulting companies can provide and structured them in the form of a pyramid:

1. Providing information

Providing information is the basic service of consulting. This service includes carrying out researches, searching for the best practices, and analysis of the market. However, often a client does not think about the purpose of obtaining information. Author gives an example, when CEO of a company requested a study on necessity of hiring assistants for each of the vice presidents. Companies rejected the project referring to the fact that in case of identifying inefficiency, it will not be possible to take a management decision and reduce the number of assistants.

Therefore, before hiring consulting companies, determine the following items:

  • What is the purpose of obtaining the desired information?
  • What decisions are to be made basing on results?
  • What information is already available to you?

Make sure that consultants use all their resources and provide information based on an analysis of the prerequisites existing in your company; otherwise, information will be useless.

2. Problem solving

Clients often hire consulting companies for difficult questions. For example, decision making on merger or acquisition, changing a marketing strategy, transforming the organisation, creation of financial policy or choosing methods for increasing efficiency.

In the projects of this sort, follow the next steps:

  • In a problem statement define the problem / task and only then the solution you are proposing;
  • Make sure that the root analysis of the problem / prerequisite is included in the terms of reference as a separate step;
  • The technical specification should be structured around the problem / task and cover the contiguous factors and circumstances;
  • Make sure that the consultants take into account previous attempts to solve the problem / task;
  • Share your vision on untried solutions;
  • Share your feelings about potential problems in related aspects;
  • Together with consultants, determine the necessary support for the project from the company's employees.

You must understand that neither a solution to the wrong problem nor a solution that won’t be implemented is helpful.

3. Diagnosis

A significant part of the consulting projects is diagnosis. Nevertheless, the process by which an accurate diagnosis is conducted sometimes strains the consultant-client relationship, since managers are often fearful of uncovering difficult situations for which they might be blamed.

By launching the project, follow the next steps:

  • Explain to your employees that no punitive measures will be taken if errors are identified. Only in this case, your employees will be ready to help the consultants understand the problem correctly;
  • Make sure that the consultant does not just analyze external and internal factors, but also ask questions on why certain decisions have been made;
  • Make sure that your employees are actively involved in the project;
  • Plan a fairly frequent schedule of meetings of the CEO and the main shareholder with a team of consultants;
  • Make sure that the consulting team considers strategic and operational problems separately from each other.

You must plan the work during the project in the way so that your employees have an opportunity and interest for its successful completion.

4. Recommending actions

The engagement is usually concluded with a written report or oral presentation that summarizes what the consultant has learned and that recommends in some detail what the client should do. Firms devote a great deal of effort to designing their reports so that the information and analysis are clearly presented and the recommendations are convincingly related to the diagnosis on which they are based. Though this approach to the result may sound logical, this setup in many ways is a cause of ineffective recommendations implementation.

At the final review of recommendations on the project results, you should remember the following:

  • Recommendations must be practical;
  • Recommendations must be clear to all your employees;
  • Recommendations must be supported at all levels of the organisation;
  • Recommendations must take into account the effects of their implementation on related processes.

This service is effective only with the active participation of the client's employees and with mandatory monitoring of implementation by the consultant.

5. Implementation of change

If the ultimate client’s goal is to implement solutions, this must be reflected in all phases of the project.

A consultant will often ask for a second engagement to assist with implementation. However, if the process to this point has not involved active collaboration with client’s team, then it will be useless to go for implantation. Shift in the nature of the relationship with the consultants will be understood as external pressure causing resistance in the company.

If you ordered the implementation project, make sure the following:

  • Consultants must balance solution between correctness and applicability;
  • Consultants must carefully plan each step of the implementation;
  • By no means allow simultaneous changes of several related processes;
  • Consultants must test each of the changes in processes separately, so that implementation process will be accepted well by the employees;
  • Make sure that all involved employees remember the ultimate goal of the proposed solution.

6. Building consensus and commitment

Clients, as well as consultants, often lose sight of point’s importance. Without building consensus and commitment, each result of the work is at risk: the diagnosis won’t be accepted, recommendations won’t be implemented, and valid data may be withheld.

Activities aimed at strengthening the client's team should be included in the contract, so that the consultants were obliged to think of support within the company.

For the success of the project, follow the next steps:

  • Identify the staff who are most interested in the success of the project and introduce them to the consultants’ team;
  • Organize general meetings with consultants, where they will talk about the ultimate goal and benefits of implementing new solutions;
  • Together with consultants demonstrate the good purpose of the project so that it is not perceived as unwanted inquisition or method of allocating blame;
  • Together with consultants identify the areas of the most probable resistance and plan the project taking them into account;
  • Act in the schedule "Result - Approval - Next Steps".

7. Learning

The added value of any project consists not only in the results themselves, but also in improving the skills of the client's employees. Make sure that your employees understand every detail of every step in the project.

Additionally, you can gain:

  • A series of trainings for employees;
  • Tools, trainings; resources and books recommended by the consultants;
  • A series of coaching sessions for individual specialists.

8. Organisational effectiveness

Enhancement of organisational effectiveness is the ability to adapt future strategy and tactics to external and internal change and to optimize the contribution of the organization’s human resources.

When going for the project, make sure the following:

  • Consultants should provide solutions and recommendations, taking into account the need to increase the flexibility of the company;
  • The proposed solutions must be relevant, even in the changing business environment;
  • Recommendations should assess the effect on the entire organisation as a whole.

The methods of interaction with consultants described in the publication are the basic solutions of project management.

Our company provides services of supporting the consulting projects, helping clients to organize work in the most effective way. As a result of our work, you can correctly set the task, plan interaction with the consulting companies and be confident in the effective and successful completion.

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