Something strange happened to me last month with one of our clients: the COO’s management team was supposed to be developing a new global organisation. The approach discussed was first-class from my perspective: integrative to include the whole team, an experienced project manager for the client, and myself as the external consultant to moderate and support the process – enablement at its best.
Dates and deadlines were set up immediately after kick-off, the procedure was coordinated and the road forward established. Initially, at the first team meeting and in one-to-one appointments, I had a good feeling.
But then what happened? Virtually nothing. There was no preparation for the meetings, the project manager made do with brief status updates and, when no visible progress had been seen for almost two weeks, my role meant that I had to make this clear – firstly to the team members directly but then also to the COO.
The team’s reaction was astonishing: they had been waiting for me (!) to send out the results at some point. The staff had simply assumed that if a consultant was on the case, they were absolved of responsibility. The COO and I took this reaction as an opportunity to hold a top-level management workshop.
At the workshop, the management team worked out three fundamental key points for the future:
In my experience, the ownership problem typically comes up either when the top management does not leave sufficient space for creativity or when external consultants are commissioned with finding a solution to every issue that is apparently difficult. This has a negative impact on the speed of the process, acceptance of the result, and on sustainability. And we aren’t talking about democracy here: the objectives for the in-house project team are identical to those that any consultancy company would be given in its project assignment.
I would wager that the management staff who wait to be given a solution by a consultant are the same people who then cast doubt on that solution. What approach do you follow when dealing with consultants?
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