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What Do Consultants Do Really?

Author: Sherry Perkins

As a management/leadership consultant, I’m often asked that question. There are perhaps as many answers to this question as there are individuals who claim to be consultants. This can be daunting to a leader or an organization who is considering hiring consultative expertise.  They’re probably asking themselves, “what can a consultant do that I can’t do for myself? How do I go about selecting a consultant? What can I really expect in terms of results?”

All too often, consultants are viewed as highly paid business, financial, technical, or organizational development (OD) professionals who do little more than keep themselves gainfully employed. They become known for just hanging around, finding work to do that really isn’t needed, having little impact (good or bad), and /or generally prompting the need for additional work.

Some of my peers are screaming right about now, “how can you say those things about our profession?” Well, the truth is, it’s not our profession that is the problem, it’s those few within the profession whose lack of ethics or ability give the profession a bad rap. The reputations, built by this lack of ethics or competencies are so bad, some professional consultants have disguised their names and camouflaged their work so as to avoid getting caught up in the association by assimilation.

Many consultants, however, are worth their weight in gold, and the organizations they support acknowledge that they could not have made it without them. So, what do these consultants do that make the much needed difference in so many organizations? Regardless of business or technical discipline, consultants generally help organizations do the following four things:

consultants

Exploration and Organizational Learning

  • Help leaders of organizations examine and understand themselves and their organizations more thoroughly, through surveys, group encounters/team development, client focus groups, interviews, psychometric instruments, personality assessments, and other interventions
  • Teach organizations to learn from their experiences (successes and failures) as well as the experiences of others
  • Identify and train members of the organization to perform every facet of the consultative role (including identification of training/coaching requirements), so that the organization becomes an increasingly more productive and self-sustaining organization within a reasonable amount of time
  • Distill mounds of research on the experiences of others (historical patterns and business trends) into meaningful sets of relevant best practices that can be incorporated into the organization’s business planning portfolio

Challenge Organizational Paradigms and Sharing

  • Help organizations create an environment suitable for exploration and mutual sharing, through open and honest disclosure, and managed feedback
  • Challenge the organizations to examine their decisions as well as the fundamental bases for those decisions, in an effort to understand the culture that supports the organization’s behaviors and decision processes
  • Foster cultural intelligence through encouraged expressiveness, celebrated diversity, inspired engagement, and rewarded accountability
  • Lead organizations in a strategic planning process that clarifies their business direction and develops actions (restructuring, resource development, and reward systems) needed to achieve that direction

Production and Sustainability

  • Help organizations identify process inefficiencies, redundancies, process gaps, and structural frameworks that negatively affect productivity and business performance
  • Isolate characteristics of model performance that can be replicated through effective management of talent: selection, hiring, development/coaching, placement, succession planning, leadership development, and team optimization
  • Improve business performance and sustainability, effective resource allocation and change management

Evaluate and Act

  • Establish measures and methodologies for determining goals, status against those goals, and corrective action required
  • Assist organizations in uncovering, evaluating, refining, and fulfilling their mission, vision, and values
  • Hold the virtual mirror before the organization so it can see how its resolves problems, manages conflict and agreement, recovers from setbacks, rewards and punishes victory and defeat, and manages complex change
  • Act as an agent of change to enhance the organization’s readiness for change

I welcome your thoughts and feedback in the comment section below! In Part 2 of this series coming up next week, I will uncover How to Know When You Need to Hire a Consultant and how to choose the most appropriate situation for your organization.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scheherazade Perkins, M.A. in Organizational Development. Sherry works at Profiles International Enterprise Solutions Division as a Strategic Account Manager. She has over 30 years experience in Technology, Management, and Human Resources.

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