Why is it that individual executives seem to like consultants so much but there is a lot of contempt for consulting and consultants in general? Where is the disconnect and what can/should I do about it?
I suspect this is much like people's impressions of Congress: it is an awful institution, but my
Senator or Representative is great! The disconnect comes from your familiarity with the consulting profession, relationships with specific consultants and the value consultants can and do provide. I spoke last week at the Annual Conference of Ethics and Compliance Officers and we had a lively debate about the impact on client organizations of consultant ethics (or recent lack thereof). Most of the discussion centered about high profile incidents of large consulting firms but I suspect there are also issues with smaller firms. Everyone agreed that the problem was with consultants other
than those of their own organization!
Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. When you ask executives who are involved in the decision to retain a consultant, are involved in their selection and management, and are close to the benefits they provide, consultants get a good or excellent rating. When you are an employee, an individual in "another" company or division, or a vendor whose business has been or will be disrupted by a consultant's recommendations, the reviews are not so positive.
What does this have to do with you? Well, since you are going to have an impact that will be perceived differently by different people, it may be in your interest, as well as your client's, to manage these perceptions. You don't want your recommendations to die in implementation because you didn't properly help staff understand what, why and how these recommendations are necessary for the company. Maybe this is the client's responsibility, but your effectiveness depends on laying the cultural groundwork for your recommendations to grow. Tip:
Work with your client to be sure that your role and the need for your services are properly explained to employees and other stakeholders. Don't assume that this is being handled by a simple letter of introduction or one all-hands meeting. You will need to manage expectations about how others understand and react to your presence and attempts to improve their organization. Above all, let them know that you consider ethics important and that you are bound by third party ethics compliance practices (like IMC USA's) and not just your own company's. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA