Hire A Change-Management Consultant When You Need Annihilation and Buy-In.

As I’ve grown more experience as a change management consultant, I’ve witnessed many positive outcomes which were added benefits, such as communication skills, tools for structured management disciplines and supervisor-subordinate relationship improvement. Thus, I have asked the question, which driving pressures drove the company to the point of deciding to hire an external change management or change-agent consultant? I’ve concluded that the pain points for companies often are summarized by annihilation and buy in.
First, companies need to annihilate detrimental behaviors typical of the human condition when they have begun to spread too far. The most healthy and happy organizations will occasionally find that power-hungry or selfish behaviors will infiltrate pockets of the structure. In fact, the healthy organizations are the ones that are awake to the damage these pockets can do if left untamed. At various points, even in the best of organizations, these outcroppings must be dealt with an annihilated in some way. These negative situations are not as easy to get rid of as one might think. At first glance, one might say, just fire the culprits. This course of action assumes that one or two members are to blame, as if it was that clear. In addition, I’ve talked to one executive who said when you lose someone, you typically lose the cumulative equivalent of that person’s annual salary in the time it takes to find, hire and train a new person. This reveals the pricey cost of management consulting to be the more inexpensive option. Also, take for example, an unhealthy rivalry between departments that has succeeded in one department undercutting the other and resulting in a poorer quality product. Firing isn’t the whole answer, because it is not bad apples that led to the problem, but poor interdepartmental dynamics. This situation can benefit from things like causal diagrams where teams map out the vicious cycle that has developed and visualize the harmful effects, while taking responsibility for areas where beliefs led to reinforcing negative conclusions. Another example of a negative pattern that must be annihilated, is when a change in the team’s culture is necessary and the company can’t afford to let such a large amount of institutional knowledge walk out the door at once. Instead, change is a necessity–not a luxury, in this case. These examples summarize how companies with fabulous and positive corporate cultures require deep weeding or pruning of that corporate culture in different seasons to ensure high quality, high standards and that the right values are enabled to flourish. These change management actions are most often and most easily accomplished by an impartial management consultant that can bring in training proven effective across industries, increase knowledge, skills and utilize workplace stories that spur on appropriate behaviors and encourage people to self-manage the difficult behaviors out of the system, eliminating the need for more drastic measures.
There is second reason that companies often hire external change-management consulting which is when the “conclusion” is known, but the means to get there is riddled with need for true buy-in. In this case, the CEO knows what needs to be done, but requires an outsider to sell the need, strategy and approach. An outsider can provide fresh perspective and virtuous, commonly accepted practices to reinvigorate and reinstate positive behaviors to validate the needed approach. This part is one of the areas about management consulting that I greatly enjoy. It is exciting to be given the hefty task of seeing patterns (that we all have seen “too many times”) and to be entrusted with the voice of integrity to guide the group through training, teaching each other and reflecting on what appears to be going on. In this process, there is a magic mixture of training content, stories, motivation, group participation, team-building and inspiration that all add up to moving a group towards buy-in about the direction needed for recovery from whatever the trouble is in order to move toward growth. The members may not want to hear the solution from the boss. The beauty of the outsider’s perspective is that it is an unbiased look at functioning and how it can be adjusted. Sometimes the executives will share with the consultant the desired outcome. (I prefer it when this happens because to me, it both saves time and ensures that expectations are met. Success equals meeting and exceeding expectations.) However, often, the consultant arrives at the same conclusion as the executive predicted and is charged with moving the group towards buy-in and toward the solution. Remember, things are often black and white to those involved who took sides long ago. An outsider can call internal dynamics back to a concrete process that will lead us through to the light at the end of the tunnel. If this is getting too theoretical, let’s use an example of one of many effective processes for achieving this motion. A couple years ago, I led a group of 35 of the world’s satellite communication experts through nominal group technique. We started off the first half of the morning, knowing that people needed to quickly get some strong opinions off their chests, so that we could move past these deep-seeded ideas–to solving the problem. I won’t go through the whole example here, but nominal group technique was extremely effective in moving us quickly past the complaints and into the working-together stage. We achieved 4 working solutions with business rules by the end of 3 days. Many times, the necessary approach or solution is already known at the beginning of the management consulting or training project. The change-management consultant is used to bring people mentally, emotionally and logically to the conclusion that the need for change is not only from the top, but is NEEDED WITHIN.
Finally, all organizational change starts with personal change. Personal change is not something the CEO can “downward direct.” In fact, the CEO that tries to direct personal change may find himself in legal hot water for “meddling” in personal lives. An outside change-management consultant is key because they can validate how prevalent certain dysfunctions in organizations are and encourage the group that these dysfunctions are all too common. In addition, the consultant demonstrates through data and story-telling, through sharing stories and successful strategies, by causing people to think and ponder, that it is worthwhile to dig deep again and reach toward desired personal change. The change-management consultant has the freedom to impartially inquire, build trust, determine the problem (through coalescing the workers’ input) and guide the group to THEIR solutions in personal work habits, teams, interpersonal dynamics and work functions.
I’ll close with an example that will resonate with parents and grandparents. For quite a while, we have been working on teaching our kids to play board games—by the rules. During Thanksgiving last year, we were playing Phase 10 with my dad and my kids. My daughter decided to “pretend” she had an extra turn and proceed to take several extra turns with the excuse “I didn’t know! (insert whine and attitude here).” Papa said calmly, “Come on now, yes you did. (with a matter of fact, non-accusatory tone.)” She couldn’t believe he said that and she straightened up. Why is it that he could get through to her and I couldn’t? If you are a parent or grandparent, you are already nodding. Yes, in some areas, our kids won’t listen to us and we need outsiders to come in and lend a hand. It is the same in companies. Sometimes, management needs an outside change-agent to come in and say the things that they can’t say without degrading internal working relationships. Bring me to say it and I’ll be happy to, as long as I determine with you that it is the right thing. In conclusion, companies tend to hire management consultants for many reasons, but the top two reasons are: when they need to annihilate certain negative behaviors or approaches and when they need to build buy-in for the desired change from within. With an intense 2 or 3-day workshop, a group can take the time to identify problems, build solutions, grow in teamwork, map out vicious cycles and learn concrete systems engineering tools that move the group toward the objective. The beauty of these approaches is that they allow opportunity to inspire and bring about personal changes which lead to team changes in an attainable way, one step at a time. Change management is not easy, but it is possible and the best companies are addressing change each and every year with ruthless boldness and they achieve great results.