Consultants and/or experts have to deal with negative reputation in society today. Most of it is based on expectations companies have regarding consultants. Clients either believe the consultant will solve the problem without them being involved, they don’t want to deal with bad news or they expect the consultant to fix the problem.
On one hand, this is a definitional issue. According to ‘Management Consultancy through an Academic and Practitioner Perspective’ by Phillips, Newman and Subramanian, a “consultant has no direct control over a client’s situation. You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation. If you have direct control you are managing, not consulting.” There are times when it can be tough for both sides to live the indirect nature of this relationship.
When do you want to have this kind of relationship?
There are many good reasons to hire a consultant but there are even more bad reasons:
- Decisions have been made, a consultant is just there to verify them: Or as they call it pay for play aka waste of money. If you need a consultant to verify your opinion, you might want to check your opinion again and why you need this crutch.
- The consultant was hired to fix the problem: Consultants can be helpful in reaching goal alignment, developing strategies, roadmaps and tactics. But the implementation has to come from within to be successful.
- Let somebody else do the work: Any effective consulting relationship involves the client at all levels. They participate in the journey, decision-making and guide implementation. They need to own the results.
And the reasons to start a relationship with a consultant:
- No expertise: The company has limited or no expertise in this area of need. It requires a jumpstart, a strategy and plan to add this expertise to the company structure.
- Recruiting takes too long: A short-term fix is required, helping to build a foundation to bring this field of expertise in-house
- Many failures: The company tried and failed to develop strategies and execute. Expert advice is needed.
- An outside expert is needed to facilitate agreement and deliver an objective assessment: Companies can be too close to a specific topic and might have widely differing internal views. A consultant can help bridge that gap.
In the end, Arnold Glasgow’s quote is the best reason to hire outside help: “A consultant is someone who saves his client almost enough to pay his fee.”
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