The Trouble with Consultants…and Clients
There is an old adage that a consultant is someone who borrows your watch and tells you what time it is. Some times this is truer than we would like it to be.
The reasons for an organization to employ a consultant are many and include:
1-Need for specialized knowledge not available within the organization,
2-Desire to have a ‘fresh set of eyes’ look at and examine the business or the contact center,
3-The need for additional ‘bandwidth’ to complete a task or project,
In the first instance above the organization will learn from the process and if the consultant provides effective knowledge transfer then the company will have developed a new capability and competency.
In the second scenario the expectation is that the company “can’t see the forest for the trees” and that they are too close and too biased, based on history, experience and how thing have always been done, to see alternatives. The consultant can facilitate a new view of the issues and present new alternatives not previously identifed by the organization. This process can remove the ‘blinders’ from the organization and create a new method for viewing issues, challenges and opportunities.
It is in the third scenario that we can see the ‘borrowed watch’ come into play. This is a situation where the organization has the knowledge and skills to complete a task, but not the ‘bandwidth’ in people or resources to get the job done. In this situation the consultant has the highest degree of risk as the client will often have an expectation of the outcome, based upon their ability to have completed the project if they had the time. The client will often project this outcome to the consultant. The less ethical consultants out there might just set about to develop evidence to prove the clients desired outcome rather than complete the work required to meet the original mandate. While it is obvious to me that the only option is to complete the project without bias, this can pose numerous problems. Clients who beleive they could complete the project, may in fact lack some of the knowledge, skills or experience to actually do so. And when they have a stated expectation of the result it may be very difficult to convince that another result is possible or desireable, let alone superior. The meeting where the consultant finds a different result can be very difficult, yet can prove to be very rewarding when we suceed in demonstrating the superiority of an unexpected result and sucuring the clients buy in and support for this new vision.