“A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time”
It’s an old joke, but there are times when it really does take an unbiased, outside perspective to get a clear view of what’s going on within your organisation. There are a whole range of scenarios where businesses can achieve significant short and long term benefits by engaging a professional consultant.
Consider the following situations:
- The watch isn’t working.
Something’s not right. A project is over time and over budget, your organisation is struggling to follow through on its strategy or you just aren’t sure how to address the latest business challenge.
- Nobody within the organisation is prepared to tell the time!
Politics, stove-piping and a lack of ownership are preventing you from seeing things as they really are. Improvements and problem solving are always somebody else’s responsibility and are inevitably left behind in the day to day rush.
- Everyone is looking at a different watch.
Everyone has different priorities. Projects are getting approved and processes are being followed but issues are still cropping up, whether it’s a constant bottleneck or ICT that’s still on the nose at user level or even a lack of portfolio or program governance that prioritises strategic investment of time and resources.
A consultant can utilise expert knowledge and an unbiased perspective to identify areas of difficulty and provide guidance to get things back on track. The point of a consultant is not to be in opposition with the existing team, or to tear down existing processes and remake them in their own image. It’s about balance – a fresh pair of eyes, an experienced mind and an ally unfettered by the nitty gritty of the day-to-day goings on. A safe pair of hands to provide assurance that you are doing the right things in the best way.
In addition to the expected benefits of bringing in someone with both experience and expert knowledge, the presence of a consultant has several specific advantages over working exclusively with your own people.
- The cost of engaging a consultant provides a strong incentive to make the investment worthwhile.
When a consultant pushes for changes the organisation has to be prepared and ready to act on them if they don’t want to risk wasting valuable time, while a similar push from within the organisation is much more likely to be shelved and forgotten about.
- A consultant can set a rhythm of regular, incremental progress.
In the absence of an external force, organisational and daily priorities almost always come ahead of long-term improvement. A consultant is responsible for delivering measurable progress, keeping up momentum in situations where it would otherwise be lost.
- A consultant equalises the fight.
A project that doesn’t have a designated champion is vulnerable. When no-one takes the lead, time and resources inevitably get redirected other projects with louder, more immediate demands and progress can stall. A consultant fights for the needs of the project, making sure it maintains priority and delivers results.
- The view from outside is clearer.
Finally, a consultant can see things that may be hidden to those working on ground zero. A fresh pair of eyes can identify issues, hang-ups and see beyond the daily routine to identify where the time and energy needs to be directed in order to achieve the desired results.
Overcoming inertia to bring about change is hard, especially in large organisations. In addition to expert knowledge and experience a consultant provides both the incentive and the accountability to make change happen, and can be a powerhouse when it comes to delivering insightful, long term value to an organisation.