Delivering successful change projects - "why do my people need to get involved if we are paying consultants?"



1. Introduction

At the start of a recent operational improvement project, a high profile client asked the simple question "why am I required to provide an internal team to work alongside the consultants?"His view wasthat "this is what I am paying you to do". For someone working within the organisational change on a daily basis there are very obvious reasons for this that go without saying. Unfortunately the consultants do not always explain their thinking and the managers are saddled with an investment that seemingly results in costing more than expected. So why are those in management so reluctant to provide internal resources? Why do operational consultancies insist on this? The article below tries to give an insight into this. The information presented was gathered over time through discussions with both the managers and the consultants and digested into the format seen here.

2. Why Are Managers Reluctant To Provide Internal Resources?

The reasons described here should not be seen as a complete list of reasons. However they are the primary ones. They have been gathered through discussions with the management and people in the client organisations. For each of the reasons there is a description which allows insight into the thinking as well as the problems associated with it.
  1. We are paying you to do the job at hand
    It is true, the consultants are paid to deliver change programs, but consultants are experts in change delivery and not the client's business. This common misunderstanding often depends on a faulty sales process. The client sees the internal involvement as an extra cost and undoubtedly will be against it.The reality is that the consultant can only facilitate the change; he or she cannot perform the change. If the consultants were to implement the improvement programon their own, the moment they leave the implemented adjustmentswould invariably be doomed to failure.

  2. We do not have enough people
    Interestingly, this statement is often heard on downsizing projects.A company where everyone is so important that the business cannot function without them is in serious trouble. In this situation a multiskilling program should be delivered, enabling staff to perform different duties when needed. Reality is that if pushed, most managers will be able to release someone or put someone else in charge so that they can participate in the delivery of the project. Saying that "this is impossible" means that there is limited will to change and this will have to be addressed via education or other measures.

  3. They are not good enough (Staff Issues)
    This was a comment made by a recently appointed plant manager.His view here was that the staff he inherited had neither the skills nor the will to participate in a change project. The question that must be asked here is "Who has the potential to grow within the company?"; projects have the tendency to bring out the best in people.

  4. We could not find volunteers
    As ridiculous as it sounds this is a reason that sometimes is being used to justify not being able to provide the resources. It can point to three different things:
    • a very weak management
    • a management that is against the project
    • an organisation based on democracy
    Regardless of the reason, this is a challenge that must be dealt with. Weak management can sometimes cause more damage than a failed project. Management who are unwilling to go through the motions will result in a failed project whilst an organisation based on democracy will resist any changes.
If there is no internal involvement then the success and sustainability of the project is in jeopardy.Operational excellence program can be done without internal full time resources but the likelihood of a successful result is slim.The first point is probably the most recurrent issue which also happens to be the easiest to avoid.It is imperative to understand that the project should not only be successful at the time of execution but this also continues to maintain that success thereafter.

3. Why Do So Many Operational Consultancies Insist On Internal Resources?

The sustainability is just one of many reasons for insisting on using internal resources. The following reasons are just as important:
  1. Creates buy in
    One of the major problems for operational change programs is the fear of the change. When the change is introduced by outsiders, this aversion to change can often spiral out of control leading to implementation difficulties and sometimes even complete refusal to change. Having someone internal partaking in the project minimises the fear factor as "they will make sure nothing bad happens". This in turn speeds up all aspects of the project.

  2. Allows sustainability
    A successful change project must remain sustainable after the initial implementation phase has taken place. This requires continued pressure and an in-depth understanding of the change even after the consultant has left the building. Someone internal will remain in place and can ensure success even in the future.

  3. Allows for knowledge preservation
    The skills and knowledge held by the consultants have been gathered over years. Having someone internal go through the process together with the consultants, allows for knowledge transfer to client's organisation. This means that the clients can perform similar projects by themselves or at least with less external involvement.

  4. Ensure that the project is delivered and will continue to work within the organisation
    Although experts in our field, we cannot be experts in our clients' business too. Be that as it may, a successful project requires that in-depth understanding of the corporate culture.

  5. Saves money
    Having internal people taking part in the project saves money. The amount of work required to be performed to ensure success is a lot larger than most people would think. In the past, projects were often delivered with tens of external consultants. Over the years, the focus on saving costs has led to more and more streamlining of the external consultancy team. However, the workload has stayed the same and still requires to be done.
Taking into account the pros and cons, internal resources should be seen as an investment in the success of the project. They are there to ensure that all aspects of the project are under control and provide an internal control, therefore establishing a successful outcome.


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