The Tyranny of Satisfaction

I was invited to contribute a blog post to this fascinating series on Surviving Work over on the LSE Business Review.  I wrote a short […]

Creativity is a problem

…however much an organization officially celebrates out-of-box thinking, people are going to associate leadership and creativity the way they associate fish and bicycles. So being […]

The art of listening

I heard the two men talking about a third old man who had recently died. One of them said, “I was visiting him at his […]

Periphery and Centre

I’m looking forward to hosting the European Regional Meeting of the ISPSO at the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin this week.  We will have 40 […]

Dare to disagree?

I keep returning to Margaret Heffernan’s TED talk on constructive and creative conflict.  Her invitation (one with which I agree) is to consider conflict a […]

The real price of perks at work

The second part of my conversation with Charlie Taylor at the Irish Times focussed on perks at work.  Are free sandwiches, gym membership etc enough […]

When hiring the wrong consultant is the right idea

Ever wondered why hiring the wrong consultant is very often the right decision for organisations? There may come a point when you know that the task you’ve been hired to do or facilitate simply isn’t the task that needs to be done – what on earth are you going to do? How are you going to manage the mounting pressure to deliver when all around you the signs are telling you that failure is on the horizon?
Change processes evoke anxiety – whether it’s at a personal or professional level – that’s one reason why the change industry is outsourced to consultants. Anxiety is difficult to talk about or deal with at a conscious level but its presence is felt everywhere in what may look like irrational behaviour and illogical decision making.
You’d imagine that choosing a consultant to manage the change process and deliver on the strategic goals would be important? After all, this is an important stage in the organisation’s development isn’t it? All well and good with our rational hats on. Unconsciously it may be more important to choose a consultant who can’t deliver, thereby protecting ourselves from the anxiety of change by blaming the consultant for not being good enough.
Consultants can be “not good enough” in various ways. They may not have the right people skills to work with the emotional issues that change presents. The IT system will be up and running in no time but people won’t have a clue what’s happening and where they may end up next week. A consultant may simply not have the professional experience to engage with the task at a strategic enough level. The project will be micro managed, take enormous amounts of time and may be discontinued due to excessive costs. The consultant may not have the authority in the system to roll out the changes that have been agreed – s/he may be de-authorised by the board from actually delivering on the task.
In all of these scenarios the consultant will absorb the organisation’s anxiety by feeling unwelcome, not good enough, set up to fail, disappointed, confused and angry etc. Very often, the consultant will be scapegoated for failing to deliver while not knowing that they were hand picked to fail.
When the wrong consultant is picked it may be the right decision for an organisation not ready to deal with change. A ritual sacrifice is often required and on many occasions the consultant is that offering. In this instance failure isn’t failure it’s a strong signal that there is other work to be accomplished before change is actioned. Very often that other work is finding a safe way to address the underlying anxiety that all change evokes. If a company is brave enough it may look to its “failures” as rich learning about the need to connect with the very real and very human fear of change.