Challenges in working with consultants
There are many entrepreneurial challenges for the use of external consultants.
Nevertheless, a survey conducted by the online portal Consulting.de and the market research provider Norstat showed that only 53 percent of the executives interviewed saw a clear added value in the cooperation with the consultants.
However, this figure was significantly higher in the group of executives, whose external consultants were active in the past five years, with 67 percent. Experience in dealing with consultants is obviously paying off.
7 Tips for working with external consultants
So what are they? Success Factors for projects carried out with the help of external consultants? In our experience, entrepreneurs and executives should pay particular attention to the following points:
- Formulate clear goals and expectations: The first step on the path to the success of the project has nothing to do with the consultant! Often, I have experienced it in my consultancy role: If a client has clear ideas about what he wants to achieve with his project and what value contribution he expects from the consultants, one can work purposefully and achieve rapid progress. If, on the other hand, ideas are still unclear, internally controversial, or subject to frequent changes, much energy is lost. So: Invest in the beginning time to get clarity about your goals. If desired. an experienced consultant can of course also help.
- Make sure the commitment: Be clear in advance of your project: even the best consultant will only be able to offer your company added value if you, as the decision maker, are fully behind the project. In addition to the necessary budget, this also includes the willingness to make relevant information accessible, to release involved internal employees pro rata for the project work - and, of course, to make the necessary decisions even if they are not the most popular. Define in advance of the project what significance it has for you, and act accordingly.
- Define the necessary qualifications: It may sound catty, but: Rarely, the cheapest consultant is also the cheapest. This is all the more true the more important the project is for your company. At the beginning of the selection process should therefore be a requirement analysis: What value contribution do I hope from the consultant and what qualifications must he bring with it?
- Define your requirements: When we ask our customers in advance of a project, what requirements they have for possible consultants, these are often criteria which can often be estimated from the CVs or project lists of the candidates, for example industry experience, seniority, honorary presentations and sometimes certain language skills. If, on the other hand, we ask the same client for feedback on the performance of the consultant, projects and methodological skills are often more important. Did the consultant really understand my problem? Did he convince me with the right analyzes and a clear logic of his recommendations? Has he managed to take the organization with him and make sustainable changes possible? Therefore, when defining your requirements, make sure you have thought of the less obvious but equally important requirements.
- Hire the right advisor: In the selection, it is then about achieving the highest possible degree of agreement between the requirement profile and the preferred candidate. In many cases, decision makers are already well-known consultants or proven consulting firms from their own cooperation, which of course makes the examination easier. In other cases, you should base your recommendations on, for example, your business environment or consultant networks. In any case, it always pays off to always have an impression of your own, to check candidates for their suitability during interviews and to be given references.
- How to manage the advice correctly: Once the right consultant or the right team of consultants has been found, the task is to optimally manage, support and lead the project and all those involved. For operational management, it is advisable to appoint an internal project manager who knows the organization well and for example helps to identify and integrate the right internal stakeholders. In addition, he should be in regular contact with the consultant, inform himself about progress, coordinate next steps and help to clarify open points. In many cases, to assist the project team, it may be helpful to put together an in-house project team of key experts on the topic, who can be involved as needed with part of their time.
- How to run the project correctly: In order to manage the project, it is advisable to identify a steering group at an early stage from the most important decision-makers who meet regularly. In the corresponding meetings, the project team has the opportunity to obtain critical directional decisions for the further project progress on the basis of interim results and recommendations. In this way, you can ensure that the consultant always acts in your sense.
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