Very often at social gatherings I get asked why do companies hire consultants? There are many schools of thought, for and against hiring external consultants. Some wonder if hiring management consultants is a reflection on their lack of ability, paucity of internal talent or just plain lack of smarts. Yet another view is that consultants help sell or drive ideas that the ownership or top management wants pushed.
At a fundamental level these reactions reveal a misunderstanding of what consulting is all about and the value consultants can add. At the outset let me say this- the wrong reason to hire a consultant is to handle a temporary spike in work. If you want to handle overflow, you hire a contractor or an outsourced service provider. Then again, you have specialized services like advertising, PR, research, technical services that make no sense for an organization to in-source since these are specialized services best done by outsiders. So then we come to the business of management consultants.
Staff at our clients has educational attainments comparable to the best. They have experience and wisdom in plenty. They are not starved for talent in that sense. So then what is the value that consultants bring to the table? To my mind, there are three specific legitimate reasons for consultants-
- Bringing in an external point of view (very useful if you have to break out of what you are conditioned to do)
- Bringing in ideas/ learning/ best practices from other industries; cross pollination if you will
- Applying frameworks, tools and techniques to analyze and resolve business problems
Whenever we see a client coming to us for these reasons, we know have a meaningful engagement.