10 Road Blocks to Effective Internal Consulting

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10 Roadblocks to Success

How to avoid the pitfalls that can arise as you transform your internal services function to a consulting organization.

In our experience working with our clients, we have found that dealing with the following ten roadblocks was critical to successfully shifting from an internal service provider to an internal consulting practice. This holds true whether you are a Human Resources function, IT, Project Management, Finance or Corporate Groups.

Introduction

Imagine HR professionals within an organization who serve as masters of marketing, able to sell their ideas, plans and programs to supportive leaders. They view themselves as internal consultants and their bosses as clients, both aligned in common goals. They skillfully understand the needs of their leaders and can translate all of their proposed initiatives into business value.

Sound too good to be true? Well, all it takes is a new model: shifting your internal service professionals to an internal consulting role. As a team, internal consultants are already familiar with the business’s strategy, processes, internal workings and needs. Whether in human resources, information technology or finance, they add value to the business by continually tailoring their products and services. Meanwhile, the intellectual capital from each project stays within the firm.

Avoid roadblocks on the path to success

In working with professionals who want to become internal consultants, I hear two main concerns:

a) How do you work differently with customers?

and

b) Our organization may not be ready.

Admittedly, if the organization does not understand the consultant’s new role and its benefits, or those at the top do not support the new role, it is almost impossible to move forward. To help ensure your company is well positioned for a shift towards internal consulting, I have identified the top ten roadblocks to becoming an internal consultant.

Roadblock Number 1: Fuzzy purpose and strategy

The worst thing that can happen is for the team to not have clear direction for the change and understand how it is connected to the business goals. Know why you are moving toward an internal consulting model, the resulting benefits to the team and the organization, and the plan for how you will get there. In short, build the case for action.

Questions to Ask

How clear are you about why you are moving to a consulting model? Are you and your team able to articulate the change and how it is aligned to the business strategy? Are you able to describe the rationale and benefits to your customers?

Roadblock Number 2: Senior Management not Engaged or Visible

As in any change endeavour, if senior management are not on engaged and willing and able to visibly support the change, it is doomed to failure. Be sure that senior management is on board and supportive. Work with senior leaders to help them understand the benefits of the change to the organization and its goals and describe their role in supporting the change in behavioural terms. Think about what they need to be saying, doing and recognizing to support the change.

Questions to Ask

How visible is the senior management support for becoming a consulting organization? Are they able to describe the benefits of the change to the whole organization? Do they know their role and what the key messages are for the change? Do they know what to say, do and reinforce (recognize) to support the change?

Roadblock Number 3: Neglect the Team

Internal consultants develop credibility by their ability to deliver consistently. Know the team’s skill and experience level and provide development where required. Be sure that the team has the ability and willingness to function as internal consultants.

Questions to Ask

Do all the members of the team have a development plan? Are members of the team clear on their roles? How will the team be organized? By portfolio, skill, client?

Roadblock Number 4: Absence of a Marketing Plan

Without a marketing plan it is difficult to know how your customers define success and which products and services add the most value. A marketing plan helps you to define your value proposition and develop measures for success. Draft a marketing plan that clarifies what your clients want and how they define value. Be sure you have defined your value proposition and the ultimate benefits of your products and services in client terms.

Questions to Ask

What are your key products and services and how do they add value for your clients? What is your core value proposition? Can you link this to the business of your clients? Have you identified key performance metrics? How will you measure performance?

Roadblock Number 5: Lack of Early Success

The development of a consulting practice can be daunting. Early in the process identify wins by identifying successful behaviours and outcomes for the team and for the organization. Look to the leaders in the organization who are supportive and with whom you can work. Work with those leaders who understand what you are trying to do and support it. Develop trust and show the organization the benefits of the consulting role by working with these managers. Communicate these wins.

Questions to Ask

Have you identified quick wins? Do you know where the support for your project is in the organization and which managers support you? Have you worked with your team to develop quick wins that can be communicated and used to build momentum?

Roadblock Number 6: Organization is Not Prepared

You have had the luxury of reading, studying, thinking and planning. For you the benefits and purpose of building an internal consulting organization are pretty clear. But remember, the organization has not had the same preparation and may not see the benefits as clearly as you do. Be aware that the organization will not take immediately to the new HR role. It will take time and successes. To start with, gain quick wins to prove the value of your strategy. Develop credibility. You do not have to turn the naysayers around; consulting success with supportive managers will create a positive effect and help move the organization forward.

Questions to Ask

Have you developed a change plan for the project? Does the plan include a sponsorship plan? Do you know who in the organization supports your project and who does not? Do you have risk strategies?

Roadblock Number 7: Lack of a Disciplined Process

Without a consistent approach it is difficult for your team and for their clients to establish positive working relationships. A consulting approach enables both the consultant and the client to see how they will work together and gain agreement on process and outcomes. Use a disciplined, planned consulting approach to working with your clients. Be sure to identify clear outcomes and deliverables.

Questions to Ask

Has your team developed/identified a consulting process or approach? Is this approach used consistently to deliver services? Are you clients clear on what the process is?

Roadblock Number 8: Lack of Accountability

Being a service provider in the organization you appear on the cost side of the ledger. Be sure to develop metrics that are meaningful to your function, your team and the goals of the organization. Develop a scorecard for the consulting organization so that you can see areas of improvement and communicate value effectively with the business.

Questions to Ask

Have you developed an internal consulting skills scorecard? Do you know your critical measures and have you set meaningful targets?

Roadblock Number 9: Disconnected from the Business

The barrier for many internal service providers is that they are not the core business of the organization and cannot communicate the benefit of their role to the business at it applied to the organization’s goals. So, unless HR, IT, Financial are the core business of the organization you need to help the business to understand how becoming a consulting organization will serve the goals and purpose of the company. As partners in the business, internal consultants leverage their expertise to meet the needs of the organization.

To be seen as supporting overall business goals, they must have knowledge and understanding of the business. Identify your value proposition.

Questions to Ask

Can you communicate the value of a consulting model in terms the business cares about? Are you able to articulate your value proposition in terms of the benefit to your clients? Can your clients articulate your value? What metrics are used to measure your value? What is your performance plan?

Roadblock Number 10: Lack of Communication

Organizations are complex entities. Communication is not only difficult, it is essential to the success of any venture. Do not assume that managers know what you and your team are up to. The best managers that I have worked with were all superb communicators, keeping their bosses and their clients informed about what they were up to and constantly telling the story of how their team added value to the business. Communication is not about information. It is about behaviour change. Provide success stories to senior leaders who are sponsoring the internal consulting project. Let them know that their support is working and that you appreciate their efforts.

Questions to Ask

Does your change plan have a communications strategy and plan? How do you communicate the success of the project to the organization? How do you engage key stakeholders in the communication plan? What behaviours does the communication plan support? Eliminate?

Summary

By avoiding these top 10 roadblocks, internal consultants can lay the groundwork for a successful consulting relationship built on aligned value with their “customers.” We hope that these 10 Roadblocks to success in implementing an internal consulting organization helped you to reflect on the factors that need to be considered and planned for in this venture.

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