Every business leader needs help at some time in their career. A view from an outsider can throw a new light on a tricky problem, and the right consultant can mean the difference between success and failure.
However, writing for Inc.com, Michael Schein expresses the view that too many consultancies harm the companies they’re being paid to serve. In particular, Schein points out the five most common damaging behaviours of consultants:
1) The substitution of perception for reality. Usually, the best solutions are simple and easy to explain, so beware of complex theories presented as the answer to your problems.
2) The sidestepping of tactics. Consultants often come up with solutions that seem impressive as they are backed up with numerous charts and statistics. However, when trying to implement the solution, their clients sometimes find that there aren’t really any actionable steps to take. What’s more, employees can be reluctant to speak out about the lack of useful material because they don’t want to be seen to lack understanding.
Schein insists the truth is that many consultants use “layers of fancy-sounding fluff” as a smokescreen for their lack of real tactical advice. Good consultants can solve problems with real solutions instead of just talk about them.
3) Putting their brand before yours. Consulting firms sometimes market their brand by producing unique, trademarked reports, papers or analyses. These can have real value, admits Schein, but he also points out that sometimes a consultant’s vested interest in their proprietary products means they don’t adjust to the unique issues that specific clients are experiencing.
Make sure your consultant is taking your business into consideration instead of marketing itself.
4) Relying on the tried and trusted. Schein advises: “Before accepting at face value what a consultant says you should do, conduct at least a little bit of your own research to make sure they aren’t just rehashing old ideas with a new cover page.”
5) Presenting themselves as experts on everything. A consultancy might have had a great deal of success giving advice in one particular area, but that doesn’t mean it will be able to achieve results in other spheres. Make sure the consultant you hire has experience in your field.