With strategic plans in place for 2019, the focus turns to implementation. For many, transformational change will be high on the list. As you look to evaluate resources, you may find yourself needing additional bandwidth. So, you turn to external consultants—whether these are large consultancies or individual practitioners.
We’ve been doing this transformation consulting work for close to 4 decades now, and see organizations make a lot of mistakes that are costly in both time and money when it comes to hiring consultants. So to help you make better decisions, we’ve put together a Buyer’s Guide on what you should look for when you select consultants for your transformational change.
A Buyer’s Guide for Transformational Change Support
- Agree internally on how you will define success.
In our experience, far too many organizations begin the transformational change journey without agreeing on exactly what the measures will be for success. Your consultants should be focused on getting value realization for the investments being made—not just getting the new structures, technology or people changes to go live. You should not be satisfied with just getting the changes installed!
- Don’t be satisfied with a boilerplate plan that’s not fit for purpose.
There are many consultancies who have a standard plan they pull out and use no matter what the change is, and what is needed for your organization. Your plan should take into account a wide variety of factors and ideally be based on your own systemic strengths and barriers.
- Find out how much time will be spent on building slide decks and communication planning.
We’ve seen consultants who spend an enormous amount of time perfecting slides. This will not deliver the results you should be looking for! Communication is only 10-15% of the equation for what’s needed. Communication is part of the change management mix, but what leaders model and reinforce with their direct reports has far more impact.
- Don’t hire consultants who will spend the bulk of the time completing checklists, templates, and other tools.
One of the primary reasons why “change management” fails to deliver is that consultants spend their time on activity that does not move the needle on driving behavior change. You shouldn’t measure the value you are getting from reviewing a pile of completed tools. Best practice change management depends on impact, not activity!
- Be sure the majority of the focus, especially in the early stages of the transformation, is from the middle of the organization up, not the middle down.
You may not believe it now, but trust us—the most resistance you will face for the transformational change will be found in the middle to upper layers of your management ranks. And the irony is, these are the very individuals you need to serve as “Sponsors” for the entire duration of the change through to value realization.
- Know that there are critical aspects of transformation that likely can’t be off-loaded to an external consultant.
Securing the required Sponsorship for transformation depends on a relationship of trust. It takes time to develop trust and credibility when your consultant has no relationship history with the Sponsors. In addition, no external consultant can replace your Sponsor. There are certain Sponsorship tasks that can’t be delegated to any Change Agent.
- Make sure your consultants have a plan to educate your Sponsors, and have proven and tested programs tailored to your situation.
Transformation by definition means doing different things differently. This includes what Sponsors are doing on a daily basis to demonstrate their personal and public commitment to the change. Unless you educate your Sponsors on what behaviors will be required from them for successful transformation, they will naturally lead this change as they have led others. That won’t get you to transformation.
Remember, there is no easy path to transformation. Your consultants can guide the way and provide you with additional resources. But you always must own the transformation and be fully aware of what you are undertaking as leaders and as an organization.