MANAGEMENT CONSULTING - HOW A PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE CAN HELP
TALK TO THE
CHAPTER OF IMCI
OCTOBER 29, 2009
Definitions of consulting
“”…any form of providing help on the content, process, or structure of a task or series of tasks, where the consultant is not actually responsible for doing the task itself but helping those who are.” – Fritz Steele
“You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation…” – Peter Block
“Management consulting is the provision of independent advice and assistance about the process of management to clients with management responsibilities.’
“Help”, “change”, “improve” and “independent” are the key words. To what limits is the question? To me the word consultant in business parlance in India does not appear to have great esteem. I am speaking from my experience. Which is surprising since the consultant is helping the organization isn’t he? Consultant is almost a bad word and a serious credibility gap seems to exist. Just like it is with doctors and teachers these days - all noble professions. I don’t know the reasons but from my mind it is possibly because consultants are only ‘fulfilling gaps’ by playing some middle roles, and not playing the roles of ‘experts’ or ‘mentors’. Organizations tend to lose out on value addition if consultants do not go the extra mile.
I am new in this area of management consulting which appears to be a very loosely used term but I have enough from my experience as an investment banker to know that this breed is viewed very suspiciously. Possible reasons for this suspicion to which you can add are:
- Does he know enough?
- What are his commitment levels?
- Will he fleece me?
- What are the deliverables ?
- How can we measure them?
- Are there hidden costs?
- Will I be better off or worse off than before?
- Is there any solid proof of his expertise?
In my opinion there is a serious case to build credibility. As an intelligent group with expertise in specialized areas that can help organizations, consultants must be respected as sources of expert knowledge, as teachers, mentors and friends and not as a mercenary, money hungry group of goons who hold the gun of half-baked expertise to your head and fleece you.
Having said that I will now come to where I can contribute to this. An idea. This idea has been consuming me and I have made it my life’s mission – “Finding Excellence Within” or “You are not ready if you have not given your 100%”. Pursuit of excellence in our chosen area. I am now going back to what I know best and what I can share best in this area. It is based on the concept of my book ‘The Men Within’ where a bunch of young boys with no belief outperform their own and others expectations and gain many things including name, fame and respect. I wrote it with these corporate similarities in mind – maybe you can find the similarities as well!
The story goes like this:
- GPS is a down and out school which has not won a cricket match in 20 years, but needs to win a cricket tournament at any cost to save its playgrounds.
- The right thinking (wants to balance education with extra curricular growth, all round growth) principal of the school (the CEO) decides to hire a coach (the consultant) to deliver results that seem improbable.
- Luckily for him the coach has a point to prove to himself and is also the kind who takes ownership of the job so we have a hero or rather a side-hero (the consultant).
- The consultant then takes over the assignment and to my mind, instead of behaving like an employee, starts behaving like a consultant (independent, improve etc) .
- He has the overall vision so he enforces certain ideas of discipline, right leadership, punctuality, integrity, teamwork etc into the team which does not go down well with the team. Employee resistance to change!
- The classic difference is that he takes a call to let the team decide its own fate. He invites them to dream their biggest dream for the team, pushes them till they see themselves holding the cup despite their fears and doubts, and lets the dream simmer in them.
- Then he makes them come up with plans that help them prepare for their campaign where they have to beat exceptional teams.
- At each stage the coach merely guides them and sets them on course and does not impose his ideas on them – it is their dream, their idea, their future.
- The important thing is that this is done without a sense of apathy but with a supreme sense of commitment and eye for improvement.
- The team prepares much more than what he believes he could have done with them, pursuing their higher limits, and embark on a campaign that changes many lives.
The Men Within is now being made into a movie.
Some learnings for consultants from this story are:
- The consultant is totally committed to the project (100%), takes ownership of the project as if it is his own, despite the professional nature of the assignment
- The consultant understands the client’s need, feels the urgency, knows the stakes and devises the best plan. Goes the extra mile to plan. He leverages his expert knowledge to catapult the organization ahead.
- Consultant realizes that client’s needs are best met if client’s employees are empowered with the knowledge, plays the catalyst between top and lower mgt
- Consultant enables buy-in through their dream-to achieve big things. You cannot achieve big things if your clients do not work or if the foot soldiers do not oblige or buy in. it has to do with their growth as well.
- He hands over the dream i.e. it requires great courage to let go of control. They are responsible for the result, he takes the blame if it does not work.
- He is always using professionals from various areas (the chemistry teacher, the drama teacher, the groundsman, the bus driver, the barber, the history teacher to help the learning process)
- Consultant is learning as much from the client as the client is from him.
- Consultant treats everyone as a collaborator including competitors and learns from them
- He is completely aware of the actions and the consequences as planned by the employees and is always one step ahead, to hold them if they slip. He is taking care of all the details that they may have missed out and is at a great level of awareness.
- He sees that the process is built properly, that it is aligned with the end goal
- He does not think twice about checking with the CEO about matters where there is doubt. Many times the CEO mentors the consultant in the story which is a bit of a role reversal.
- As the journey progresses, confidence levels build in themselves and in each other. Belief is built up in self and team. Same goes for consultant. CEO sees tangible results.
- As the journey reaches the climax, the final, the consultant leaves the team, let’s go of the captain’s hand and empowers them fully. They can now do it on their own as fully empowered people.
To do the above a consultant needs
- total commitment,
- sense of ownership,
- a feeling of complete security about himself and his profession (no holding back for later use and billing),
- an assessment of great detail wherein each step is carefully monitored to see the boys don’t go in the wrong direction
- the care that a well-wisher or teacher takes in the initial period so the students feel supported fully, a safety net feeling
- the final letting go.
It is almost a teacher – student, parent –child relationship and one that is respected the highest. You have created a lifelong relationship.
To me it’s a process that is committed to excellence. Everyone wants to be the best they can be, they want to stretch themselves to achieve something that makes a difference to themselves and their lives. Same goal different motives but everyone gives their best. Tough ask for the consultant to pull it off unless he is fully committed.
DESIGN VS CHANCE - THE WAYS OF WINNERS
The ways of winners
- They enjoy the process
There is a process that champions follow. This process is followed 200%. They enjoy the entire process of preparing and being champion material. I guess it’s applicable to consultants as well. Apart from being a revenue generating activity one can only take it to the next level provided we enjoy the process.
- They prepare fully
They are fully prepared in all aspects. They set the standards, the pace for others. Preparation to me is being prepared for the next level. As a management consultant you need to be prepared for the next level of challenges, of growth and not merely test the waters at the current level.
- They play to win
They enter the field to win. They are not there to ‘hope’ that they win. You must design the outcome and take responsibility for it. If it is not at least you must know what went wrong so it can be corrected else there is no value we add.
- They believe in themselves
There is complete belief in their capabilities, training and the process. They believe that they can pull off the big ones when required. As consultants we must try and test it out – we must have made it happen somewhere before we use it.
- They believe in the team
They believe that their team can do it. That the most unlikely chaps will pitch in when the team is in trouble. Even when things are not going their way, they believe fully and support one another. I guess this is true of the client’s team – we must trust the process and we must trust them.
- They use all resources fully
They do not believe in favoring a few. There are no stars. All resources are understood and used to the best of their abilities. Again it makes sense in a client’s space.
- They do not give up until the last ball
They do not give up. The opposition has to win by running the last run, scoring the last goal or whatever but they will not yield an inch. Until the final whistle they are looking for an opportunity to turn the tide. There may be times when it is easy to walk off after picking up the cheque but I do think it’s important to stay and see if things can still turn around. Normally they do if all the work has gone in 100%.
- They play honestly, within the rules
There is a sense of honor among the champions. As champions they honor the code. Consultants must have a code of honor – of the highest order, that of a parent, teacher or mentor.
- The team is always before the self
Individuals have no place. The team always comes first. You don’t get off the boat first.
- They know their strengths
They are very clear about their strengths and do not hesitate to use them fully. There is no holding back.
- They know their roles
Every member knows his/her role clearly and is expected to fulfill that role. They know the importance of the role and take pride in it, even though it may be a seemingly small role. Defining the roles plays a big part in the success of any endeavour and the consultant must know his role vis-à-vis the rest.
- They are alert for opportunity always
Champions are always alert for an opportunity to turn the tide against the opposition. They convert the small openings and open them wide.
- They think positively – no negative thoughts even in the direst circumstances
When things do not go their way, champions do not give up. Instead they keep their wits and stick to their basics, their game plan. The process comes in here.
- They give their 200%
All members of champion teams are giving their 200% effort. It is a part of their training. They are taught to give their best and they do, results follow. My question to all of us is this – at any job can we ask ourselves one question – have I given my 100% to this? 100% as in pushing all limits.
- They take full responsibility
Champions take full responsibility for their roles, their performance.
- They look for results, not excuses
They never give an excuse. They are always looking for results.