Headstart: Management – Invest in change to succeed.

Management consultants borrow your watch so they can tell you the time.

So the cliche goes. But don’t underestimate them. If you don’t use them yourself you are probably not doing your own job well enough.

Junior management handles the everyday operational issues. Middle management innovates within current operations and executes broader strategies set by senior management. Senior management deals with strategy and its implementation.

So change management is a big feature of managers’ lives particularly at upper levels. Management can do it and where possible they should.

But in a vibrant company with new ideas and a decent strategy there is not enough time to do it all.

Typically, tasks get scheduled, junior and middle management get overloaded, top management gets frustrated, projects get started and stopped as priorities shift. Slow progress is made. Now let’s try a different model. Encourage people to experiment, tolerate failure. Still there are more ideas than pairs of hands. Set up a continuous improvement team – managers from all areas throw projects at this team which operates an agreed prioritisation process.

But more improvement could be made. This is where consultants come in.

If line management and the continual improvement team are fully occupied there is every reason to sub-contract some projects to outsiders. There are advantages to using consultants. They go away when the project is finished. They can call in specialists for short amounts of input. They are highly experienced at project management and will produce a useable result faster than those who have a day job.

Try converting the continual improvement team into the change management team with the remit that some projects can be sub-contracted. Then see how much change the organisation can manage.

If this is not the picture in your company, you are probably trying to do all the desired change management yourself with inappropriate resources.

You will probably be over-staffed with the wrong type of resource or, worse, you are not undertaking the changes that will lead to improved results. Managements happily invest in new assets. Why are they reluctant to invest in consultancy-led change management projects which are likely to have higher returns? Because consultancy hits the p&l account whereas investments are balance sheet items? There is no difference in value creation terms between a consultancy project and investment in new plant.

Poor accounting rules and, more particularly, inept investor relations allow this kind of short-termism which causes sub-optimal decision making.

Or is it simply that managers don’t want many consultants around for fear of unflattering comparisons? ?:

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