2018-11-06 07:56:56    Robert E. Smith, PhD, Founder, The Change Shop

Hiring Change Management Consultants vs. D-I-Y Organizational Change

The conversation about organizational change management has begun to shift—it’s no longer a “fad” but an ongoing movement that organizations large and small are adopting. This has led CEOs and Human Resource leaders to question whether to look externally to have a consultancy help them with their workplace change initiatives or find people internally to support change and transformation efforts.

This is not easy choice to make. Both options require a long-term commitment. Building an effective change management approach is fundamentally an investment rather than a quick, magical remedy to your organization’s change capabilities. Managing change across multiple, disparate workgroups, teams, and levels takes elbow grease, time, and strategy (and more than just a little bit of luck).

To help your decision, I’ve outlined each side of the grassy knoll; from there, it’s up to you to see which option is more feasible for your organization.

External Change Management Consultant Route

Partnering with an external consultant or consulting firm gives your company a solid foundation for best practices and frameworks. Often, consultants and management consulting firms specializing in organizational change will offer a set of frameworks and models they have used multiple times in previous engagements—think McKinsey’s 7-S Model or Accenture’s Change Model. Each of these are based on models that have been used over multiple engagements over a matter of years. These often provide leaders with a measure of comfort rooted in the idea that these people have done this hundreds of times before so they know what they’re doing.

Based on my experience with clients, there are main ways to leverage a consultant / consultancy:

  • Fully outsource all your change management work (e.g., overall change strategy and approach, change plans and communications, facilitation and coaching) to them
  • Collaborate and work alongside the consulting team
  • Your internal change management team and the consultant’s team partner to tackle different parts of the change management process (hybrid approach—more on this below)

Note of caution: One of the biggest downsides of off-the-shelf change models is that they can quickly become inflexible and rigid. This can pose a significant risk when introducing major changes to cultures that are not ready for or are highly resistant to change. Change management research has shown that introducing change often exposes and exacerbates pre-existing problems in an organization’s culture. Leaders should be mindful of change approaches and models that cannot easily ‘flex’ to account for issues the introduction of new workplace changes may create.

Regardless of the consulting approach that works best for your company, there’s considerable advantage to having a consultant with expertise in change management practices and approaches. This is especially true if you are looking to formalize a consultant’s or consultancy’s change management framework across your entire enterprise.

It can also be more cost-effective to hire externally if you are a very large organization and can afford to invest in billable staff without the long-term commitments associated with hiring and training full-time resources. Alternatively, if you are a smaller company with few current full-time employees who can take-on the added workload of managing and supporting a workplace transformation, going external may be the best bet. 

No matter how you decide to leverage an external consultant / consultancy, be aware that to a greater or lesser extent some work will be required to ensure the partnership will be a successful one and result in meeting the change outcomes your organization is looking to achieve.


Do-It-Yourself (internal) Change Management

You can successfully drive successful organizational change management but the uptime may be a bit longer. It may take months before you start to realize the benefits of having internal team lead change as it may take some time for your internal team to become acclimated with internal processes or tools to help manage change, but it is possible.

Here are a few tips to making the most out of your internal change management team:

  • Have them complete the [Personal]180 (it’s free!) so they can see their own thoughts and feelings about organizational changes that are planned or in-progress
  • Make sure the CEO or senior leader’s vision for the future is clear and expectations for the in-house change team are realistic and long-term
  • Encourage feedback and creativity, as it can help bring a new perspective to the table you may not have realized (the proverbial “forest through the trees” syndrome)
  • Provide all the tools they’ll need to succeed; whether it’s The Change Shop’s suite of subscription-based free tools or something else.

In the event you are not able to pull together an internal change management team quickly, companies often leverage a hybrid approach that combines the strengths of external and internal teams. This is a viable approach, and a great way to segue an internal team to be self-sustaining.

Apples and Oranges

The reality of this choice (of consultant vs. in-house) is that it varies from business to business. Needs change over time, but it’s good to have and know your options. While there is no right or wrong answer, our research shows that most companies typically undergo 2 to 3 major workplace changes over the course of a year whether that be a change in leadership, a change in HR policy or benefits, implementation of a new cloud or software system, or a merger or acquisition. Having tools available to successfully navigate the people implications of these shifts is a game-changer.

What’s your story of external or internal change?


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