Friday, May 1, 2009

Call me any time

Why do companies hire management consultants? There are four main reasons that I have come across, although often it's a combination of factors that brings consultants in the door. Here they are:
  • Speeding things up: getting focused resources who can get on with what needs to be done without getting involved in unnecessary workshops, away days and committees. The business probably has the skills to do the work, but just doesn't have enough of them, and thanks to the heavy baggage of daily working life, they can't move fast enough.
  • Borrowing brains: employing experts and experience is expensive. When you want to get rid of them it's even more expensive, so the thing to do is hire those skills when you have a need. The trick here is making sure that you get the right skills, which means understanding your problem and your organisation properly. Like self awareness in people, self knowledge in organisations is rare and often highly concentrated.
  • Trying something new: accessing fresh ideas & approaches. This is related to borrowing brains, but it's more about the external perspective that consultants can bring. Some companies recognise that they get stale and introspective, and hiring consultants is one way of seeing the wood for the trees.
  • Because they can. Curiously true - consultants are sometimes status symbols for executives, although it's getting rarer these days.
Once they are in, though, how do you make sure you get the most out of your consultants? That's a question for another time.