How to Effectively Leverage Your Management Consultant’s Resources
So you’ve decided to bring in a consultant to provide particular expertise, help you solve a particularly thorny problem, or simply manage a project you don’t have time for. But are you effectively using all the resources that your consultant brings to the engagement?
We have heard clients complain that “If I don’t ask exactly the right question in exactly the right way, I don’t really get the real answer. The consultant answers my question directly, but doesn’t really fulfill my need for information.” Good consultants give you answers to your direct questions; great consultants probe deeper to understand your true information needs - even the ones you didn’t know you needed!
A good consultant will make good on the deliverables spelled out in your contract. A great consultant strives to deliver additional value above and beyond the scope statement and that includes providing resources that you may not have considered.
Below are some additional resources that a great consultant can provide to you and to your organization. If your current consultant is not willing to provide these, you may not be working with a good consultant, but not a great one.
Leverage Their Singular Focus
Consultants are not tied down with the day-to-day minutia and office politics that plague most organizations. Their projects usually have a singular focus which enables them to provide solutions quickly, compared with employees who are usually juggling multiple tasks, projects, and priorities. If you need a project completed quickly and efficiently, use a consultant to get it done. Take advantage of their singular focus to get that project off your plate.
Leverage Their Sense of Urgency
Along with their ability to have a singular focus, a great consultant should be bringing an intense sense of urgency. They usually will have large appetites for working hard and long hours because they are on the road and wanting to cover as much ground as possible. A great consultant will rarely utter: It’s good enough, but will almost always say: “What else can we get done?” Use the consultants to help you instill a sense of urgency in your team. A great consultant should set the pace!
Leverage Their Objectivity
You hired the consultant for their expertise, but if they only repeat back what you say, you are not getting the best value from your investment. You don’t want a consultant to look at your watch and tell you the time. Consultants by nature should be objective and should communicate their findings, expertise, and opinions in an professional, but open and honest manner. They should be willing to confront the entire organization, including you. If you don’t feel challenged by your consultant, you may not be getting the true objectivity you are paying for.
Leverage Their Tools and Processes
Experienced consultants have developed and gathered a wide library of tools and tricks for getting things done smoothly. Examples include project plans, roadmaps, financial analyses, templates, and best-practice processes. Many of these are non-proprietary and can be shared with you if you ask. Great consultants are not worried about sharing their methods and processes; they know that their true measure of success is helping clients become self-sufficient rather than withholding information in the hopes of extending a contract. Of course, don’t expect a consultant to freely provide licensed or proprietary information (that would be unethical and possibly illegal), but most of what they have is probably ok to share.
Leverage Their Full Expertise and Networks
Experienced consultants have seen a wide variety of projects and industries and have cultivated a large network of contacts across a multitude of disciplines. You may have hired a consultant to run a specific project, but you should feel free to pick their brain on other topics as well. They may have some great ideas that can help. If not, chances are they know someone they trust who knows a lot about your other problems. A great consultant will be happy to make an introduction or provide a referral, even if they don’t make money from it. Providing as much value to the client as possible, even without financial gain, is the hallmark of a great consultant.
Leverage Their Independent Status
Consultants are outsiders. They usually don’t have deep relationships with your staff and are only there temporarily. They are hired for their expertise and objectivity, so feel free to use them as the tool to help break your team out of the status quo. In other words, feel free to use them as the ‘bad guy’ to present ideas and solutions to your team that go against the grain, particularly if you are new and just starting to build rapport and credibility with your team. However, try not to use this technique too often or you might be seen as an ineffective leader who cannot deliver bad news!
Hiring a good consultant for your project is straightforward and easy. Simply define your scope and sign the contract. But if you take the time to find a great consultant – one who will deliver the additional resources above without question – you will receive significant value over and above the statement of work from a partner you can trust.