Consultants can be a panacea to a firm, bringing in:
• Fresh outside perspectives
• Unbridled firepower, since they’re not beholden to the daily production grind
But bringing in a consultant, if done wrongly, can be disruptive—and even destructive—to a firm.
The wrong way
I experienced the wrong way first-hand when I was employed at a company as its sole industrial engineer, many years ago. I had a list about ten pages long of all the opportunities for improvement that I had identified in its manufacturing, ranked by ROI (return on investment). I made rapid progress completing projects and knocking them off the list, but it was disheartening seeing all the money that we were still leaving on the table, being that I was only one guy. Try as I may, my boss would not or could not hire more engineers.
One day, I heard that the vice president of operations had had a consulting firm come in for $30,000 for a couple weeks to assess opportunities for improvement in our manufacturing. I saw the document that the firm produced and almost all of their ideas were ones that I already had on my list. I showed the V. P. my list and he was surprised. I was dismayed that my company had seen fit to have an outside firm come in to do what I had been chartered to do, without even consulting with me. If done properly, I would have welcomed the consultants, appreciating the long-overdue extra manpower and enjoying working with them as a team, showing them what I had, and putting our heads together to identify even more opportunities for savings and working together to execute our plans.
That would have been the right way.
But, as it was, I firsthand experienced the wrong way to bring in consultants.
The right way—3 rules
- Bring in a consultant who knows that the front-line people who’ve worked in a company for years have more ideas and insights than even the smartest outsider.
- Bring in a consultant who knows that his job is not to displace local experts, but to employ them as a foundation to create-—together-—even more ideas, then work together with them to implement them.
- Bring in a consultant who knows that working as a team with local experts—as equal partners—not only brings the tangible benefit of making use of all the employees’ experience and ideas, but it also wins their psychological support. When they see that the consultant will be an ally and source of empowerment for them—not an opponent—they support him fully.