Consulting and professional services are the fastest growing employment sectors and is set to nearly double in numbers in the next 10 years.
Most of you reading this blog are either hiring consultants or a consultant yourself. I have found that consultants and how a company uses them has a significant impact on an organization"s culture.
I see this as so important that my new business - in the final stages of design, to be launched within the next month - is focusing very specifically on this. We will be upskilling those inside organisations who are responsible for leading, managing and supporting culture initiatives, so that they have a solid framework of knowledge from which they select how and when to use outside help on their culture goals. And we will be accrediting consultants in Walking the Talk methodology to improve their ability to ensure that their work is aligned with the target culture their clients are aiming for.
Pros - How do Consultants Enhance Culture?
- They can get close, but remain outside of the core cultural dynamic. This means they can point out cultural traits and challenge embedded mental models. Most will say things it would be more difficult for an internal person to say
- They can provide process and specialised expertise in the many elements of changing culture
- They can offer extra "arms and legs" to resource up for a short term push. This works great when the internal team sit at the core of the process and are really owning it.
Cons - How do Consultants Constrain Culture?
- They often do not transfer their skills to the client. When they leave, the momentum dies. There is a natural tension here, because if the client builds the skill internally they may not generate as much revenue for the consultants in the future.
- The change process can be seen to be the responsibility of the consultant, feeding an avoidance culture.
- The consultant methodology remains theirs, and the client never really builds "their way". This problem multiplies with multiple consultants, all with their own methodology and language.
The potential problems can be overcome. Here are the traits I have found most useful are to use consultants effectively to build the right culture:
- For the client - to have enough knowledge to be in the driving seat. To build a framework and ask consultants to fit within it, staying within boundaries.
- For the consultant - to transfer skills, and have confidence that there will be enough revenue, even if it comes in a different way.
Let's all get better at this.