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Best consultants? Well, what is best, anyway? This seemingly simple question often sparks profound contemplation. And in the world of consulting, where expertise is intangible and outcomes are a blend of art and science, defining “best” becomes even more elusive.
Finding the best consultants for a single project might seem straightforward with the right resources and research. But ensuring you consistently engage with the best consultants tailored to your evolving needs? Now, that’s a challenge.
This definitive guide delves into this very challenge, aiming to equip you with a strategic approach to navigate the vast sea of consultancy offerings. Discover how to transform occasional successful collaborations into a systematic approach for consistent excellence in all your consulting endeavors.
#1. Implement a Performance Measurement System
Ah, consulting – the great black box of the business world. Filled with mystique, influence, and behind-the-curtain maneuvers. Isn’t it amusing that an industry, so often resistant to standardization, ardently pushes its clients towards adopting performance measures? The irony is palpable.
“Why,” you ask? Perhaps because the consultants’ world thrives on intangibles. Yet, here’s a secret: even the ethereal realm of consulting is measurable. It’s just a tad trickier.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, a well-structured system to measure and assess the performance of consultants is paramount. Not only does it promote transparency, but it also sets very clear expectations.
Regular checks ensure that our enigmatic consultants remain tethered to the realm of accountability, ensuring they continually deliver value.
Now, this is where the real challenge lies. Given the industry’s intangible nature, we are left to rely on proxies. It’s tempting to set unique KPIs aligned with each project’s objectives, but that route leads to a labyrinth of inconsistency and disharmony.
While KPIs have their revered place, especially in steering committees, for performance evaluation, we might want to return to basics: project management, impact, and behavior.
So, instead of venturing into the complex, let’s simplify. Evaluate based on the promises made against the delivery. Harness the power of client satisfaction as a yardstick, but do it right.
Focus on tangible elements: Was the project managed efficiently? Was the promised impact achieved? Were interactions smooth and professional?
In essence, consulting may seem nebulous, but with the right tools and approach, you can pierce through the fog and ensure that the value promised is the value delivered.
After all, even the most elusive of professions can be tethered to the tangible when viewed through the right lens.
#2. Build Your Bench Based on Your Needs
The world of consulting is a vast sea, with estimates suggesting between 5,000 to 10,000 consulting firms, each flaunting its unique DNA, each asserting its distinctiveness. With such diversity, it becomes crystal clear: not every consultant is your knight in shining armor.
To an outsider, the dazzle of large, one-stop-shop consulting firms might seem like the obvious choice. And indeed, these giants come with their own set of charms (or should we say, their ‘sweet spots’).
But that’s precisely the crux of it – they have areas they conquer with élan, and then there are territories where their brilliance dims. Diving deeper, it’s evident that it isn’t merely about the size or prestige of a consulting firm.
The essence lies in understanding your specific needs. And these needs? They’re not just governed by industry or transformation stage but are also intricately linked to the very people that constitute an organization.
Consider this; a strategy group made up of ex-consultants from top-tier firms might have starkly different consulting needs compared to a strategy team training diverse high-potential employees, even if they’re in the same industry and have similar business models.
Every organization is unique, woven together by its industry landscape, transformation journey, and the individual threads of its people. This tapestry demands specific expertise, and a generic consultant won’t do.
For example, a strategy team populated by former strategy consultants might require a different kind of external expertise compared to a group that’s used to cultivating talent from within. The industry and business model might be the same, but the needs are divergent.
It’s all about aligning with the 80% rule. Cover approximately 80% of your current and future needs. Begin with introspection. Examine past projects: the capabilities employed, the consultants involved, the satisfaction quotient, and areas of improvement.
For recurring needs, discern the ideal blend of consulting firms that can cater to these specifications. Furthermore, project into the future. Which skills will remain relevant? Is there a need for knowledge transfer? Do your present vendors fulfill upcoming requirements?
In essence, to navigate the vast consulting labyrinth, the compass is a deep understanding of one’s organizational needs. Once that’s clear, the path to the right consultant becomes much less convoluted.
#3. Let Go of Low Performers
Ah, the age-old conundrum of performance management. It’s a dance every industry is familiar with, yet, when it comes to consulting, we often find companies shuffling their feet, unsure of the steps.
It’s almost comical — how frequently the cycle of hiring, firing, and re-hiring underperformers plays out, with the same actors (read: consultants) back on stage, just in a different costume.
Being a good consultant and being the right consultant for your organization are two very distinct propositions. While both require expertise, the latter demands alignment — with your culture, style, and people.
And if there’s a mismatch? It’s like fitting a square peg in a round hole. It’s uncomfortable, inefficient, and ultimately fruitless. And let’s be honest, with the vast ocean of consultants out there, why settle for a fish that doesn’t swim in sync with your currents?
Continuous performance assessment is key. Beyond the occasional feedback, there needs to be a structured system in place. This allows for improvements to be implemented in real-time and for consultants to be made aware of their shortcomings immediately post-project.
Think of it as constructive criticism, a chance for them to adapt and align better. But if the patterns persist and the necessary adjustments aren’t made? It might be time to cast your net elsewhere. The sea, after all, is teeming with potential.
#4. Be on the Lookout for New Players
Ah, the ever-shifting world of consulting. A realm where, if you blink, you might miss the emergence of a revolutionary player or the birth of a groundbreaking methodology.
Like in a bustling marketplace, if you’re just fixated on the stalls you know, you might miss out on that unique, handcrafted item tucked away in a corner.
Covering 80% of your needs might give you a sense of security, but what about the unexpected? That unpredictable 20% that can emerge from the shadows when least expected?
It’s these unforeseen challenges that often require a fresh perspective or a novel approach. And this is where new players in the consulting world, with their unique methodologies and unorthodox solutions, come into play. They’re the wild cards, the mavericks, bringing forth innovation in spades.
So, how do you catch these elusive rising stars? First, become an industry aficionado. Dive into the latest thought leadership publications, engage in forums, and let your fingers dance across platforms like LinkedIn and Improveo in search of trending and perhaps best consultants.
Regularly scan the horizon for shifts in the consulting landscape. Merger here, a spin-off there, and voilà, a brand-new powerhouse might emerge. Moreover, don’t underestimate the power of networking.
Attend industry conferences, join professional groups, and participate in webinars. The goal? To always be in the know, to always be one step ahead. Because in the dynamic world of consulting, resting on your laurels isn’t an option.
#5. Scope Your Projects Right
It might sound like a dreary topic buried in procurement handbooks, but think of it as the recipe to your gourmet dish. Miss an ingredient or misinterpret a step, and you’ll end up with something quite different from what you intended.
Getting your project’s scope right is akin to setting the stage perfectly for a grand performance. Firstly, it’s about setting clear expectations. Imagine handing a map to your consultants, a map that not only shows the destination but the best route to take.
This way, you’re ensuring that they’re primed to give their best performance. Secondly, an appropriately scoped project acts as a compass, pointing you towards the kind of consulting talent you need. Do you require a general physician or a heart surgeon?
Similarly, do you need a strategy consultant with a dab of innovation experience or a full-fledged innovation specialist? Scoping helps answer these crucial questions, ensuring that your project doesn’t embark on a wild goose chase.
So, how do you get the scope just right? Begin by rallying your stakeholders. Dive deep into the project’s objectives and iron out the non-negotiables. Ensure alignment, both internally among your team and externally with the best consultants.
Draft a clear document detailing deliverables, timelines, roles, and responsibilities. It’s about being meticulous, leaving no room for ambiguity. Because when everyone’s on the same page, you set the stage for a consulting masterpiece.
#6. Unbundle Your Projects
Ah, the allure of the all-in-one package deal. It’s the equivalent of ordering the “chef’s special” without really knowing what’s in it. “Let’s give everything to XYZ Partners,” is an oft-heard refrain. It sounds easy, and perhaps efficient. But is it really?
While XYZ Partners might tout themselves as a jack-of-all-trades, the reality is even the giants have their Achilles’ heels. Remember, consultancy isn’t about breadth; it’s about depth.
By bundling everything together, you risk watering down expertise. It’s like expecting a Swiss Army knife to perform the exact function of a dedicated tool – it might do the job, but not as efficiently.
And yes, while bundling might provide a semblance of ease, in the long run, it might not be cost-effective or value-driven. Imagine paying top-dollar for something that another specialized firm could do with higher quality and at a fraction of the cost. That’s right, your ROI just shuddered.
The remedy? Unbundle. Don’t hand over your intricate watch to a general mechanic when specialized watchmakers exist. Start by categorizing the project activities based on capabilities.
Group similar activities, especially those with similar value and cost implications. Then, craft focused, compact RFPs that target these specific capabilities. This ensures each component gets the specialized attention it deserves, maximizing both value and efficiency.
After all, wouldn’t you rather have a team of experts than a group of generalists?
#7. Group Projects on the Same Topics for Synergies
Just when we recommended the joys of unbundling, here we are, preaching the gospel of grouping. Contradictory? Not quite. More like, complementary.
Remember the pharmaceutical giant that unknowingly commissioned the same “Future of Work” study eight times in a single year, dishing out to eight different consulting firms?
A case of déjà vu times eight. An amusing tale for us, but a cringe-worthy memory for many procurement leaders. Harnessing synergies isn’t about being stingy; it’s about being smart.
Pooling similar projects can lead to economies of scale. The more you order, the lesser you pay per unit – a principle as old as commerce itself. Moreover, this isn’t just about shaving off a few dollars.
There are deeper, more nuanced advantages: a streamlined onboarding process, consistent methodologies, and a uniform depth of understanding across projects.
And let’s not forget the intangible benefits – the trust and familiarity built between the client and the consultant, which can enhance the quality and speed of outcomes.
The tricky part, of course, is to be aware of these overlapping projects in the first place. This requires a blend of communication, transparency, and internal collaboration. Encouraging teams to communicate their needs and projects can unearth potential overlaps.
Yes, this might entail making siloed departments sit together, discuss, and sometimes, relinquish control. But when you consider the potential benefits – both in terms of cost and quality – the effort is truly worth its weight in gold.
So, while unbundling is about ensuring depth, grouping is about maximizing overlaps. Two sides of the same coin, really.
Conclusion: Work with the Best Consultants?
Navigating the vast seas of consulting can feel like a quest for the elusive ‘best’ – a term that’s often brandished with fervor but seldom understood in its depth.
Let’s set the record straight: the best consultants aren’t necessarily those with the most glittering credentials or the ones headlining industry conferences.
The best consultants are those who deliver unparalleled value tailored to your unique needs, all within your budget.
This doesn’t mean dismissing global accolades or impressive portfolios. Rather, it’s a call to recognize that the “best consultants in the world” might not necessarily be the “best for you.”
Every organization, every team, has its idiosyncrasies, its quirks, and its distinctive challenges. What’s paramount is a consultant’s adaptability, understanding, and commitment to your specific context.
But here’s the catch: to consistently work with the cream of the crop (i.e., best consultants), one can’t rely on serendipity or the old ‘tried-and-tested’ mantra.
It demands a methodical, company-wide approach — a systematic strategy that identifies, evaluates, and collaborates with consultants that truly resonate with your ethos and requirements.
While the world of consulting is vast and varied, with the right approach, you can ensure that every collaboration is not just with any consultants, but with the best consultants for you.