Consultants – Part 3: Do It Yourself

There is no stone tablet etched with instructions that you must only go outside of the company walls to find consulting expertise. If the primary reason for hiring external consultancy is to augment company staff or to buffer their workload, logically there could be times that it is perfectly acceptable to turn to in-house talent for implementing change. In fact, several problematic situations can be avoided by use of internal consultants. Institutional knowledge of past experiences is fresher if experienced firsthand instead of through intelligence gathering. The likelihood that the project changes will last beyond the consultancy period is greater when the experts that implemented the changes are employees. There is also a long term benefit to continuing feedback and corrective actions beyond the original term of the project.

The perspective of a project related consultancy means that some of the same practices of external consultants will apply, but really this is an outgrowth of the organizational structure already in place. All staff functions are continuously acting in the capacity of internal consultants. For example, human resources professionals are not the policy police, but function daily to advise management on issues of productivity as it relates to the contributions of employees. The finance and accounting staff could be seen as a regulatory arm, but progressive companies use financial experts to recommend actions on the part of management that maintains fiscal integrity within the company. It is not beyond the scope of these and other roles to tackle major changes as standalone projects with a start and end date while maintaining daily operations at the same time.

Paying attention to the methodologies used by external consultants gives a template of the design of an internal consulting team. You might say that the in-house project team copies the actions of an out-house team.  

  • Fact finding – Just as the outside experts need to have the ear of the CEO and other key executives, the internal project lead must also have an open door to those that are the top internal stakeholders. No staff function or internal consultant can operate in a vacuum. Because there is already a known relationship, there should be a greater efficiency of communication than with outsiders.
  • Communication – There may be a rare exception that requires a project to be handled confidentially, but in the majority of cases, there is a benefit to the project and to the culture to announce publicly the goals and objectives of the team. Focus groups and advisory panels are a good way to hear about any problems with direction and even get innovative ideas from people not formally on the team.
  • Project Management – The team leader must conduct scheduled periodic progress reviews to measure results against the pre-established project benchmarks. This not only gives the consulting team the ability to keep the project on track it also affords multiple opportunities to recognize the contributions of team members. Recognition for innovative actions and meeting/beating deadlines is a good incentive for individual employees or sub-team groups of employees.

Special projects are a way of strengthening the company by keeping it in the family. Regardless of the professionalism shown by external experts, there is a need to instill a sense of pride of ownership and reinforce the idea that the culture can thrive without the need for “outsiders.”  

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