Before spending money on a consultant to solve an important problem, ask yourself what would happen if:
Everyone on your team set aside 8 hours to work on this problem.
You all agreed that this work is more important than the other urgent things going on, so you’ll honor that time commitment.
You empowered someone on your team to be the ‘consultant.’ This person has free rein to use the allotted 8 hours of each person’s time as she sees fit.
Those 8 hours can be used for prep time, for meeting time, for brainstorming time.
Those 8 hours have a new set of ground rules, some of which push against the established culture of your team or organization. Cultural boundary-pushing looks like: asking un-askable questions, naming established assumptions, noticing the many elephants plodding around the room.
It’s expected that some of those 8 hours are spent generously reaching out to smart, helpful people at just the right moment to see if 15 to 30 minutes of their wisdom could get you unstuck.
Once those 8 hours are used up, the results will be shared, along with no more than three recommendations for what to do next.
At an agreed-upon date, those recommendations will be discussed, decisions will be made, actions will be taken and resources re-allocated based on that decision.
I’d bet that in 90% of the cases the above exercise gets you better results faster, for much less money, than hiring a consultant. And, better, yet, if you still decide that you need a consultant it will be for one of the only two good reasons to hire one:
- The consultant is a scalable resource: the amount of time required to do this work really is more than what your team can spare.
- The consultant has unique skills or resources not possessed by your team, and you need those skills to get the job done. These skills could be creativity or design. They could be skills in managing group dynamics and creating space for important conversations. They could be the skill of teaching things your team needs to learn.
- There is no third reason, because most of the time you’re hiring a consultant so they can bring the discipline to focus on an important problem. But you don’t need to pay a consultant to do that, do you?
2 thoughts on “How to avoid hiring a consultant for the wrong reasons”
Sasha, nice post. However, I disagree with your last point. Sometimes, you really do need an outside consultant to help you focus and be accountable when you don’t have the resources internally to do it yourself. We do this every day for our clients and the value we bring in helping our clients remain focused and accountable to goals helps them achieve so much more if they were to try and do this themselves.
Hey Jeff, thanks for the comment. I do think that’s a good time to hire a consultant – it’s what I was trying to get across in the first point about a consultant being a scalable resource (that you don’t have internally). And, having gotten a good deal of feedback from some wonderful consultant friends of mine who I respect tremendously, I expect I could have done a better job clarifying that this was really a post about being a great client.