Usable Insight – Preventing Consultation Creep – the 12 Steps of Consultants Synonymous
“I’m less concerned about what they’ll do for us than what they’ll do to us”
- COO of early stage company expressing his concern about hiring consultants
from Wikipedia – Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals, often after initial successes. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs.
Many companies are reluctant to hire consultants because they fear “Consultation Creep” where after a consultant comes in and does a diagnosis and some initial work, that they will find too much that needs fixing at too great a cost and that will require a commitment and focus from people inside the company that is unrealistic.
From the consultant’s side, he or she is concerned with making the proper recommendations for which they have been engaged and with the success of those recommendations. As a consultant does a diagnosis, he or she will often uncover key factors that if unaddressed will make the consultation ineffective. In other words, the consultant will discover that what a company wants is not what it needs and if it fails to address what it needs, not only will the consultation not be a success, but the company may not succeed.
What is needed to correct this?
After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, J.F.K. apparently spoke to President Eisenhower and asked his input on why that incident failed so miserably. Eisenhower said something to the effect of: “Your goal was okay, but you didn’t have a process for making sound decisions under pressure.” Supposedly J.F.K. took these words to heart and because of them was better able to make it through the Cuban Missile Crisis.
To be effective, consultations need a process as well, or else they are likely to “creep” and end up in failure. For that process to be successful, it requires full buy in and commitment from a decision maker and one or several influencers within the company (i.e. individuals that others will follow).
I have called the process the 12 Steps of Consultants Synonymous, because similar to the 12 Step of Alcoholics Anonymous, they represent a step by step approach that if followed will prevent the consultation from falling “off the proverbial wagon” into high cost, time delays and unsustainable results. Because just like Mission Creep, Consultation Creep is an addiction to doing much more than is asked of them.
These 12 Steps of Consultants Synonymous will help any company and consultant keep a consultation on track. Don’t hire one without them.
Step 1. Problem Definition
What’s going on in a company? The consultant meets with the principle decision makers and key executives to see what they feel their biggest challenges (problems) are, what they think their greatest opportunities are, what they think their greatest strengths and weaknesses are, and what they think needs to change to meet their challenges effectively and take advantage of their opportunities.
Step 2. Assessment of Outcomes
What outcomes does the company want to achieve? The consultant puts together the input from Step 1 and reaches a consensus about these outcomes with the principle decision makers.
Step 3. Available and Not Available Approaches
Consultations/actions are selected that are necessary to reach those outcomes, e.g. structural reorganization, team building, strategic planning, business planning, financial planning, etc. and the availability and accessibility of the resources to achieve those within the company and what will need to be added?
Step 4. Strategic Planning of Consultation
The order and sequence of different consultations/actions is established. Who is going to do what, when, and where is determined.
Step 5. Education and Involvement of Key Executives
The consultant educates the main decision makers on agreed upon outcomes, agreed upon strategies to achieve those outcomes and the people within company best suited to execute those strategies and then obtains a commitment to action from these decision-makers.
Step 6. Education and Involvement of Relevant Staff
The key executives and/or consultant explain what is going to happen and why and why now and then obtains a commitment from the people who are going to do what is called for.
Step 7. Fine Tuning
The consultant assists the company in adjusting and modifying approaches to fit the situation as it evolves.
Step 8. Does the Consultation Work?
The consultant checks to see that the approach(es) is producing the desired results (i.e. moving the company towards agreed upon outcomes).
Step 9. Monitoring Mechanism
The consultant determines a way to periodically measure and make changes to keep everything on course and gains commitment from key executives and managers with implementing that monitoring system.
Step 10. Continuity
The consultant assists the company to develop a program to keep the company continuing and following through with changes. There needs to be some kind of scheduled periodic follow-up to ensure follow-through (turning changes into habits).
Step 11. Maintenance
The consultant helps the company to develop a way to make necessary changes when called for part of corporate culture (turning changes into culture), so that the company is self-reliant.
Step 12. Disengagement
The consultant helps the company to develop a way to know when the company is using changes on their own without the consultant’s help. An early warning system is developed for a company to know when problems are arising, to nip them in the bud and address them.