Choosing a consulting partner for your organisation’s redesign efforts may prove to be one of the biggest decisions you make this year, you don’t want to get it wrong or you won’t be here next year! You are probably already asking yourself why you should be taking advice on choosing a consultancy from a consultant. The answer to that is simple, most experienced consultants have met with prospective partners who have not asked themselves some basic questions, or done any worthwhile research, before starting a conversation. We all know that time is more valuable than money and lack of preparation wastes everybody’s time. Answering some basic questions upfront will save a lot of time and effort later on.
Your questions should fall into four categories;
- Why do we need a consultancy partner, what outcome are we looking to achieve?
- How do we want them to approach the work?
- Are they credible?
- Can we work with them?
Lets take a moment to explore the above questions in more detail.
Why do we need a consultancy partner, what outcome are we looking to achieve?
Begin by asking yourself and your organisation why you are considering hiring consultants to partner with you on a redesign project in the first place. Have you changed your strategy, are your results or KPI’s not as good as you need them to be, or do you just have a gut feeling that something isn’t right and that the organisation could be performing better? All are valid reasons to be thinking about redesigning as long as you can answer the follow-up question; what will have changed as a result of the redesign effort? At this early exploratory stage the answer does not have to be scientifically quantified however, you should have some parameters that you want to see change. They might be cost related, or faster cycle times, or more customer intimacy, or more innovative products and services. The list can be endless but you need to be clear what it is you want to achieve for your business before you start the conversation with a potential partner. If you don’t they will tell you what they can do for you, there is no doubt that this will be very attractive, but is it what your organisation wants or needs?
How do we want them to approach the work?
Once you are clear why, your next set of questions should be about how. There are three different ways that a consultancy can approach the work: an expert approach, doctor-patient approach, or process approach. Considering the differences between each of these consulting roles will help you differentiate between what you need and what you want the consultancy to provide you.
The Expert Approach
This is done by an external consultant coming in, doing the work and giving you a report of their recommendations for fixing the problem at hand. This approach can appear attractive as it does not require any involvement from, or engagement with, the rest of the organisation, leaving them to get on with the day-to-day until they are told what they have to change.
The Doctor-Patient Approach
Here the consultancy performs a diagnosis, and then provides you with “prescription” to solve the issue you have presented. This approach is faster at first as the consultant will be prescribing a solution they have seen solve the same problem before, but this results in slower implementation as the organisation learns how to make the prescribed solution work in their unique circumstances – once the solution is implemented the presented problem may have gone away but the underlying issue may still persist.
The Process Approach
This is where a consultancy guides you through a holistic approach based on the outcomes you are aiming to achieve, helps you involve the wider organisation in developing options, and then facilitates your decision making as you hone in on the best solution from the options available. It is a slower process in the beginning but it leads to a much faster and more efficient implementation. This is the approach we use at ON THE MARK as experience as taught us that it leads to better outcomes and return on investment for our clients.
Determining the how, is critical to deciding what type of consultancy you want and need in order to solve your issues effectively and efficiently and deliver the outcomes you need. Is this a situation where you want to hand everything over to an expert and get them to make critical design decisions about your organisation? Or, do you want your consultant to come in, decide what the problem is based on a quick diagnosis, and then provide you with their design solution for you to implement? Or, is a collaborative process driven approach to the redesign right for you? An approach where your partner helps and guides you as you involve your wider organisation in developing design options and making the design decisions based on the collective genius of the whole organisation.
Are they credible?
Next you want to know if the partner you are considering is credible, can they deliver on the promises they are making? A good way to answer this would be to ask for references from the consultancy’s previous clients, especially those in the similar industries to you. This will give you a better picture off their previous success, enable you to discover if they are credible and if they will be able to deliver on their promises for your project.
Can we work with them?
Finally, you know why, you know how, you think you know who, you have made all the rational decisions and are now left with the most important decision, are these people that I can work with? You are putting both your own future and the future of your organisation into the hands of the partner you choose. This is an emotional decision that you have to make based on your gut feeling, if you don’t like the people you have met, if you feel that you don’t want to work with them, then don’t. You need to be fully engaged in the redesign effort and you need those around you to be fully engaged as well, if you are harbouring doubts it will show, and this will compromise your success.
Conclusion: How To Select a Consulting Partner
Don’t wait till the consultancy you have chosen is leaving at the end of the project to decide that you made the wrong decision. Put the effort in upfront and you and your organisation will have a much more successful future. At ON THE MARK we pride ourselves in working with clients who are the right fit for us as well as us being the right fit for them. Feel free to get in touch to have an exploratory conversation, we’d welcome talking to you.
Irena Krstic is Support Consultant and Peter Turgoose is Senior Consultant at ON THE MARK. In business for 28 years, OTM is a global leader in collaborative organization design solutions and business transformation. We have a passion for collaborative business transformation that sits at the heart of OTM, supported by pragmatism, systems thinking, and belief in people.