Choosing the Right Consultant for the Right Results
Every now and then, I encounter professionals that appear to have a love/hate relationship with contractors and/or consultants working with organizations in their industry. Interestingly enough, one of the most significant challenges cited by the executive buyers of consulting services was defining and managing the scope of consulting projects.
Many would agree the success of the project is critically defined prior to launch of the consulting engagement, yet only 58% of executive buyers lock in the strategic direction ahead of time. Despite these statistics, more than 100 billion dollars are spent on management consultants annually, with projected growth of 6% per year.
Since it doesn’t appear the use of management consultants is on the decline, it’s worthwhile to pursue an understanding of what it takes to realize better return on investment in this temporary talent resource.
Particularly during this time of year, we tend to pay special attention to the many possibilities available to help us become smart shoppers. Once we identify for whom we want to purchase gifts and what we want to buy, we begin our research of the best features, benefits, shopping resources, and best value. Is it better to buy this gift online or in the store? Does it make sense to purchase the gift from a source that will provide additional benefits like instant rebates, free shipping, or bonus points redeemable for future purchases? Well, there’s an industry adage that says, if you want consultants to deliver optimal performance, you’ll need to learn how to become a savvy consumer of consulting services.
Similar to our approach to holiday shopping, it’s in our best interest to define our desired organizational outcomes, research potential consulting providers of services needed, and establish the best value prior to signing the contract to start the work. In some cases, researching consulting providers can be easier than gaining clarity on what it is our organization really wants to buy. The more ambiguity that exists about what our organization needs and wants to buy, the harder it is to determine the appropriate consulting provider and how to measure if they are successful. Is there any wonder that successful consulting engagements can be hard to come by? What can realistically be done to choose the right consultant for the right desired results?
When pairing the right consultant, optimal organizational environment, and desired results, consider the following criteria:
Does the consultant:
- Demonstrate a proven, credible track record in the desired outcome?
- Model a high level of professionalism and emotional intelligence?
- Engage in and welcome ongoing dialogue to include pushback from the client regarding consultant assumptions, recommendations, or implementation scenarios?
- Provide a high level of responsiveness and client engagement?
- Suggest success indicators aligned to client organization’s metrics?
Does our organizational environment support:
- Realistic expectations based on current circumstances – Will potential options work within the confines of law, statutes, and policy?
- Conditions of a high probability of success in decisions, strategy, or implementation of desired behavioral change?
- Involvement of an executive sponsor – Are other influential team members modeling believable behavior on board with desired way forward? Will they proactively clear barriers and remove obstacles within their span of control/circle of influence?
- Timing in which proposed changes stand the test of an imminent change in administration, transition period or acting tenure of senior leadership – Do we have sufficient buy in?
Will the desired results:
- Factor in the risks of implementation and a strategy to mitigate them?
- Assist our organization in the change management plan?
- Help our organization prepare for a future without the consulting provider to include an approach to retain positive results of the performed work?
- Define how our organization is better off as a result of the consulting providers’ assistance?
Successful client/consultant partnerships can be attainable, if approached with clarity of purpose, measurable results, and realistic expectations.