In-house consultants are half as effective

Alan Belniakbusiness3 Comments

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Traditional consultants may be smart in their field, offering sharp insights that have been honed by years of personal experience, reading, networking, and general and specific knowledge of the domain.  Yet, when they make a suggestion (that is seemingly unpopular), people bristle.  Not sure if that will work.  Are you sure it will work? Get an outside opinion first.  Let’s wait on that.

The Jekyll and Hyde of Consultants

How about it, then, when a company hires from the outside and brings in a consultant?  Ah, seemingly the best of both worlds.  That expert and razor wit – developed from years on the outside – is now ready for deployment on the toughest challenges, with no other clients with which to contend – now inside the company walls.  An apparent win-win: the consultant-turned-corporate can provide the wisdom, while the company soaks up the experience, all without paying the expensive fees… and they can lather, rinse, and repeat.

We hate to pay outside consultants, because they are expensive.  We deride outside consultants for not knowing our business intimately.  Yet we seek their advice, time and time again.  They are the experts, yet they are not the experts.  We tend to take their advice when it’s convenient for us, and ignore it when it doesn’t jive with our own internal thoughts (and dare I saw biases?).  We want the cost and malleability of an internal employee, with the up-to-date skill set and technical chops of an external consultant.

The Reality: The Honeymoon is Over

If this sounds like a tale, it isn’t.  This is a very real experience, and it’s probably happened at your company or even to you directly.   This happened tangentially to someone I know.  She was talking with one of her co-workers about this, and her co-worker had a great line that sums it up nicely: “Isn’t it sad that when a consultant walks into the office and joins the corporate ranks, she instantly loses 50 percent of her knowledge?”

If a company hires from the outside to get that outside experience, use that outside experience.  Don’t negate it. Don’t brush it under the rug.  Don’t thrash.  If you do, it’s now even more expensive than just hiring a consultant.  If you have reservations about the guidance they may offer, you might want to think twice about hiring that person in the first place.  You’re ultimately wasting time for both you and them, potentially insulting them, and not accomplishing anything along the way.

How about you?  Can you share (even if it’s anonymous/sanitized) an experience along the same lines?

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