Consultants Offer Flexibility, Hands-Off Productivity
With staff sizes and budgets restricted or diminishing, and top executives up and down the ladder under pressure to do more with less each year, many savvy executives are seeking help among the seeming army of consultants of every stripe to get their companies on the profitability track. Are they finding success down that road?
The idea of the consultant is ancient – Egyptian kings and pharaohs had “consultants” with specialized magical talents to advise them and point them in the right direction when governing the masses. King Tutankhamun had one of the greatest PR consultants ever seen, who told him that to the Egyptian people, big buildings mean big power, big statues mean big power – and Tut and other Pharaohs took this to heart and built the pyramids of Giza and other wonders of the ancient world.
Consultants can be used for a variety of purposes, from adding moral support in difficult or uncomfortable political situations, to adding credibility to pet projects in communicating them to Boards or subordinates. The image of the unfamiliar man with the briefcase and the air of confidence in the boss’s office was born out of some particularly sticky board meetings in the 1960s by top executives at a large conglomerate who’s ideas were not being communicated effectively or credibly, and a CEO who’s head was on the block. Once the Board members heard the same message in a different way coming from the consultant, an expert in such matters, they approved the plan and the CEO was spared. The consultant in that case didn’t come up with the idea, he simply communicated it effectively and lent his credibility to the idea.
This practice continues today with great success in companies and organizations across America. Communication by proxy can be used as an effective strategy if a number of conditions are met. One is that the idea or issue must have real merit on its own. training
A bad idea is a bad idea, no matter who presents it. Another condition is that the consultant be at least as credible as the staffer to the selected audience. He should be a known, or at least vetted, quantity, with the credentials to back it up. Once those two elements are in place, communication by proxy can be effective in getting new ideas implemented.
Short Term Expertise
Consultants have many other functions as well, and most departments within the organization can find a number of consultants that specialize in their particular areas of functionality to assist them. Sometimes consultants can simply be used as additional manpower, fill-ins for key employees on personal leave, plug-ins providing necessary functionality on short notice for the short term.
These are not temps you can call in for a day or two while someone is out with the flu. They are highly-trained, experienced executives who have been in many different corporate situations and reached a level of comfort with the commonalities in procedures in their area between companies to be effective quickly. They are typically not used in situations where the term is shorter than a month, as the cost of lost opportunity for a stint that short drives the hourly rate beyond the return value.
Expectations in this situation are relatively high, as the consultant is being asked to step into any number of situations already in place and under way, and gather sufficient information from internal sources to keep these projects moving forward effectively, in a very short period of time, but without injecting much of their own influence or changing the direction of the project. This is a tough gig, and successful consultants are to be highly prized and respected for this set of skills that make such performance not only possible but routine. When projects are critical, and the schedule is inflexible for any number of reasons, this may be a good option for mid-size to large organizations.