Why companies hire …and fire consultants-a case study (revised)

Very profitable companies’ choice of consultants often reflect the distinct pathology from which they suffer.

Company A sells cutting edge products which enable improved digital marketing to the Financial Services industry sector.

A’s product releases are very buggy and need ongoing bug fixes, yet clients continue to buy A’s products because they provide competitive advantage.

A’s commitments to its client are exaggerated. For example they recently promised push advertising for incoming tourists within 3 months, although there is no way of providing anything whatsoever within this time frame.

Even within “A”, no one really knows what will be the content of the next release because their internal commitments between R&D and Sales lack credibility. As a matter of fact, company A suffers from constant friction between R&D and the Sales force, as well as from constant churn of project managers who loose credibility with the clients as deliveries slip both in quality and functionality.

A hires an OD consultant every so often, because the level of pain is as high as the level of profitability! A is very profitable.

Last week, all hell broke loose at a plan of record meeting, and it was decided that a consultant needs to be hired to “support growth”.

4 consultants have applied for job, each with a different set of values. One of the consultants has worked with A in the past. 

The consultants

  • Consultant Bill believes that change is planned and managed. Bill’s approach is to work on process and structure to ensure predictability. Bill was not hired because he is “too much of an engineer”.
  • Consultant Constance believes that the ethical and moral fibre of the company are building blocks for its long term sustainability. Constance focuses on end to end transparency, both internally between departments and externally with the clients. She plans to plot out with A’s  CEO  how the firm will “say what it means and means what it says”. When the CEO read her proposal, she did not even get an interview.
  • Consultant Amir has worked with A for 9 years, under the previous CEO. Amir believes that OD is a midwife to change which happens. He is very eclectic and pragmatic in business matters and focused on “whatever works”; Amir believes that A operates in a competitive arena where its behaviour is largely logical and paid off. Amir works with the CEO on ensuring that A does not lose its competitive edge,without which A will quickly default into rapid decline. Amir does a lot of pain mitigation with the management and troops. Amir focuses on ensuring that everyone understood the hidden dynamic by which the entire system functioned. Amir worked a lot on understanding the thin line that exists between partial and deep chaos.
  • Consultant Robert believes that OD work needs to be non-disruptive and create a wow effect. He used to be a Training Manager in a large company before he was downsized. Robert took a course at a community college and got a diploma in OD. Robert proposed a series of 3 wow lectures on Stress Management, Great Teamwork and Engagement, as well as some personal coaching on individual effectiveness.

Robert was chosen for the job. He worked with A for 9 months. When A’s profitability was severely hit, his contract was terminated immediately  and HR was tasked with commissioning cost effective training webinars on positive engagement.

The moral of this story is that very profitable (yet decaying) companies with some pain often choose low level consultants who will work with the wrong population on the tactical problems, and when the shit hits the fan, they get it wrong again. Smitten by arrogance.

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2 thoughts on “Why companies hire …and fire consultants-a case study (revised)

  1. And not only “profitable but decaying” companies… And not just “again”, but again, again and again… I have an impression that ANY quality work (including consultancy) is no longer valued (at least in business, government, international organizations and NGOs): they don’t do it well themselves, get into trouble, deal with it wrongly, and keep banging their heads against the wall over again and again. No wonder, a few of the best OD and management consultants that I knew moved into purely creative business (photography, movies, creative writing etc.)

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