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People and Partners
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How to equip your organisation so that it can constantly evolve, adapt and succeed?
You need to build an internal consultancy group and achieve smoother changes and better P&L results!
Are you struggling to drive effective change within your organisation? You may have turned to (expensive) external consultancies for support; but how can you ensure that all the change related insight and wisdom accrued by the project team doesn't just walk out the building at the end of the project? We believe you should create a programme for training some of your own team to become internal consultants. These guys could be some of your rising talent; they could be part-time or full time project manager types or even senior operational managers. Why do it? It will save you money in the medium term, give you better change project benefits and outcomes - all of which will impact the Profit and Loss account and create a long term in-house capability. So if you decide start to grow your own "Internal Consultants", what do you need to consider?
We look at 1) what internal consultants need to understand at the start of a change, then 2) how internal consultants should go about implementing the change and 3) how you can grow this vital resource and deploy them effectively?
1) What internal consultants need to understand at the start of a change process?
Internal consultants must fully understand the benefits proposed. Very often organisations haven’t really worked out the impact of the business benefits they’re going for. Internal consultants need to be able to quantify the benefits, so that changes to working practices can be measured: without that, you can easily end up just guessing or saying things like the process "seems to be going more smoothly". This means always measuring and understanding the "AS IS" before they even begin working on the "TO BE". Some of this information will be readily available via existing management reports but often the internal consultant will need to set-up measures from scratch e.g. measuring the average time orders take to be delivered or how many hours work is required to process a customer return. Internal consultants also need to encourage those working on changes to predict the new levels of performance e.g. that took 4 hours before - I predict it will now take 30 minutes!
Internal consultants should measure the stuff your accountants tend to ignore! Internal consultants within organisations also need to be prepared to measure stuff that no-one really cares about e.g. the efficiency of meetings or poor email communications. Your finance guys will say that long meetings are wasteful, but will not support measuring times - because of the prevailing view that the people attending (the meeting) are on salary e.g. they are already here! We believe "time (wasted) literally is money" once you consider the lost opportunity costs.
There are some practical ways (for internal consultants) to identify and deal with non-valued added activity
We work with internal consultants to help them firstly to measure how time is consumed by key senior roles. We recommend doing this pragmatically via spreadsheets and then by aggregating and analysing the results. What becomes clear in most organisations is that there is a lot on non-value added activity going on. This information (once understood and prioritised) can then form the basis of improvement activity.
Internal consultants need to generate really powerful business cases for change
Non-valued added tasks tend to happen in a routine way e.g. daily or weekly. We ask Internal Consultants to accumulate these "slices" of wasted time over long time periods. We encourage them to explore the possible uses of the wasted time. We ask them to conservatively suggest that a few reclaimed hours a week could be used on leadership, senior level liaison or business development. We then encourage internal consultants to say (crucially) that this time can be used to drive conservatively small percentage increases in staff productivity or sales revenue. The rule of "take small percentages of big numbers" then kicks in and suddenly you are looking at significant benefits to the Profit and Loss. The Finance guys will be sceptical but they will not be able to argue the points away!
Internal consultants must be prepared to challenge and test senior management sponsorship
Another challenge for internal consultants occurs when the senior team aren’t really prepared to push for the change they claim they want. Internal consultants need to work "as if they have one foot outside the organisation" and make it clear to senior management that they will need have carrots and some very real sticks to ensure compliance. We tell internal consultants to never assume that the top team "really get the change". We explain that it is often "change but for others"! So we help internal consultants prepare to be a dissenting voice to their own bosses!
Internal consultants must broadcast the impact of proposed changes and what is actually possible
Time and time again we see change plans that dramatically underestimate the impact they will have on people’s existing jobs and responsibilities. What looks good on paper and in the sales pitch of an external consultancy - may not be achievable by your current team because of their skills or current mindset. I've been in many client meetings were someone is challenging the change plans only be politely silenced by a polished external consultant; we help internal consultants to champion concerns and where necessary broadcast them upwards! We teach internal consultants to be pragmatic - you have to work with what you’ve got, and be realistic. That’s what can make internal consultancy so powerful: you can get well-formed goals that are grounded in a real-world understanding of how things currently work.
2) How internal consultants should go about implementing the change
Internal consultants need to understand that there is no right way of managing change
It’s important to look at the balance between change that comes in a consultative way, and change that’s driven by power from the top. Earlier on in my career I was consulting for a very large organisation, helping them implement a new software system plus new more frequent and intensive quarterly reviews that would change the performance review process and incentives for thousands of employees.
We had designed the approach and were ready to go when my client said "let's go and have coffee and discuss how we implement this stuff". He listen respectfully as I provided some considered counsel and suggested a consultative change programme - so that the users felt they had been involved and could see their "fingerprints" on the change. (This was what I had learnt from respected books on managing change). When I'd finished my client said, “Thanks for your thoughts, but here’s what we’re going to do."We’re going to put it in, (not consult) and clean up the mess afterwards.” I protested, but that's what we did and to my surprise it just all happened with only isolated complaints! It was certainly a brave call, but my client correctly judged they had bigger challenges; he also had one or two key decision makers on board and also knew intuitively that they needed to move fast. It was a great lesson. We now coach internal consultants and others to know that change approaches should be crafted by context, timing, power and what works, not any particular management theory or dogma.
Internal consultants (and their organisations) must be careful of over-confidence generated from "pilot" implementations
Given the choice between "big bang" implementations and running pilots - organisations often take the latter route. Frequently, a high performing and "local to centre" site is chosen to test out the new stuff. Project resources are made available to support the changes, senior managers visit the office or factory and everything is supported and normally good results follow. As a result - everybody is very positive and soon a much wider roll-out is under way. This roll-out has more problematic sites, less project resources and little senior focus - and guess what - things are less smooth! Internal consultants need to do the "implementation maths" and tell it as it is - "we can only roll-out at 4 sites a month with the current resource!!"
How can internal consultants hard-wire your changes into the organisation?
You need your internal consultants to look at the big picture. How does the change affect culture, measurement, and recruitment? Thinking about change in a reductionist mechanistic way can mean that unforeseen or unintended consequences are missed. Your organisation is not simply like your car - where replacing corroded spark plugs in your car will give a predictable performance improvement. Your internal consultants need to think about organic change i.e. using the car analogy - assessing all the influences that would flow from changing the car's driver.
We know that changes are often both mechanistic and organic - and internal consultants are best placed to see needs to be done and considered. We ensure internal consultants can think in both logical/rational and complex systemic/organic ways.
Internal consultants need to know that lingering is good!
Finally, organisations often conclude change programmes way too early! Initially resources go into a project, and stay until the implementation is under way and at that point in the life-cycle senior managers start to think about the next project. Resources get pulled away (especially expensive external consultants) and eventually no one is left behind to keep pushing towards the project goals, and ensure that the change process gets baked into the organisation for good. Internal consultants must be alive to this problem and suggest long-term arrangements for ensuring that limited project resources are "on point" for embedding duties up to years after the initial roll-out!
3) How you can grow this vital resource and deploy them effectively?
Firstly your organisation needs a change framework
How does any consultant drive change? I’ll let you in on a little secret: All the big consultancies have very similar models that help clients think about and plan change. These models force clients to answer fundamental questions such as, “What are you trying to achieve? Where are you trying to get to? What’s your real problem? Where are you now? What’s really driving your current level of performance?”
We equip the internal consultants we train/coach with our own framework (in our case - 5 phases for bringing about changes - see below). It details the tasks, deliverables, skills, tools, questions and mindset needed at each stage. The aim is to build upon existing capabilities and to unlock the wisdom and experience your team already possesses.
Creating a shared language to enable change programmes is important: the training also brings a shared set of tools and models. The models and tools we use have been used in lots of organisations; they’re not secret sauce, but are they’re road-tested.
Secondly train your best people to be internal consultants
When we’re training people to become successful internal consultants, we’ll walk them through the models and tools they need given the specific change agenda their organisation faces. Then we’ll run them through a series of "war-games" that enable them to fully analyse a business similar to their own, and see how the process of applying the tools and change thinking works in practice. To aid the learning process we can use custom written "metaphoric case studies" which are about organisations that although different have the same types of market, processes, people and cultural challenges carefully and quietly woven into the briefs, data and senior management biopics we give to our learners.
Freed from the day to day, and asked to bring new experience and objectivity to analysing business problems that don’t fall within their normal job descriptions, it’s remarkable how often we find unexpected and impressive talent. At the end of our courses we get these internal consultants to apply their new techniques to real pre-selected organisational issues. This can provide a step-change in how your organisation tackles problems and release loads of great energy for change.
Thirdly: set up an internal consultancy group
There’s two ways of setting up these kinds of internal consultancy functions: you can either have an internal consultancy group that has full-time availability for internal change projects, or you can have people (in a virtual consultancy group) who have some part-time project work as part of their day job, who you've equipped with skills to help them drive change.
Of course external consultants have a key set of roles to play. If they've been around the block they can help to provide an honest, objective sense of where the organisation is on a curve. They can also help you break down goals and of course provide critical skills and knowledge. However, a team of internal consultants does have one singular advantage: they’re likely to be around for longer. They know the problems, and they know the organisation, so they hit the ground running and drive change over the long term.