Let’s harken back to 1993 and consider the plight of FoxMeyer Drugs. You can take the CEO seat at the $5 billion pharmaceutical distributor while Jurassic Park reigns supreme in theaters. Your IT group is pushing for an enterprise-wide software upgrade and promising well over $100 million annually in cost savings, plus streamlined processes and happier customers. That sounds worthwhile, so you go on a hunt for the best blue-suited, power-tie-sporting, Ivy-League brainiacs to transform promises into reality.
Your consultant safari ends with an agreement to employ a very large consulting firm for $35 million. Alas, your choice turns out to be a fatal error. Most of the dozens of consultants on the team are inexperienced and turnover is high. In other words, blowhards who are not loyal to your cause. The project becomes an epic disaster, bankrupting the company and leading you to sell everything, soup to nuts, to a competitor for a mere $80 million.
Aren’t you relieved you didn’t oversee that fiasco? But wait a minute. Are you thinking of hiring an outside expert to help on some project? Could contracting a guru beget a FoxMeyer-esque debacle? Not if you know the right way to find your consultant.
The eight questions below will lead you to the one person who can help you most:
- Do I need a diagnostician or an implementer?
- What type of expertise will produce superior results?
- Do I need fast, cheap or good? (Pick two.)
- What are the characteristics of the right consultant?
- Where can I locate the right consultant? (Then, having found one or more prospective consultants…)
- How likely is success using my prospective consultant’s approach?
- Is the ROI still acceptable?
- Is my prospective consultant the real deal?
To give you a running start, I’ll touch on the issue of expertise (question #2). Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of boomerangs and you want to reform the management style of a troublesome plant manager. Don’t you want a consultant with a track record of teaching management techniques to stubborn plant managers in the primitive weapons industry? No, you don’t.
Looking for consultants experienced with your problem and situation is a common mistake. You are far better served by finding an expert who has mastery of the outcome you are trying to achieve. A consultant with breakthrough ideas, a superlative approach or exceptional knowledge can deliver outstanding success where an “experienced,” run-of-the-mill consultant would produce humdrum results.