So, You Think You Run A Tight Ship?
Lessons Learned From Being On Both Sides Of The Table
During a particularly memorable session with Jack Welch during my MBA days, someone from the audience asked his opinion on the consulting industry. His muttered answer was brief: “Get a real job”.
As my consulting career began, that episode lived in my mind, and I remember wondering, “Is asking for external help not equal to admitting your own ineptitude? Isn’t an executive better versed in their own business realities than any outsider might be?” But as my professional journey took me through various consulting and management roles, I’m glad to report the answers are; “It’s not” and “Not always”.
When I entered consulting, I was lucky to join a practice that specialized in result-oriented implementation and structured analytics, where the observable impact on the organizations we worked with erased any doubt about how effective our work was. It wasn’t just the application of lean management principles, or the structured and disciplined approach to analyzing and changing processes, systems, and behaviors. What truly drove the value we added was working side by side with our clients, co-owning the changes, and arriving at long-term sustainability rooted in the new improved state we left behind us.
But it was only when I left consulting to take on a management role, that I was able to fully appreciate the value provided by business management consultants. While formally working under the title of General Manager at a healthcare company, I found myself carrying out responsibilities at a COO level. I was given a challenging and exciting project: To ensure that a solid operational base was put in place to support the explosive growth of the company. In my mind, no one was better equipped to take this on than a former consultant who had extensively dealt with operations across various industries.
Years later, sitting at my desk, satisfied with the work I’ve done, looking at KPIs and results that were on track to meet aggressive targets, a realization struck me: “If I invited my consultant-self to look at the structure which my management-self had built, it would take consultant-me no time to paint red (the equivalent of non-value-added in the implementation consulting world) all over it!” The realization was stunning. Did this mean that as a consultant I had taught my clients principles which I was unable to implement when in a management role?
However, I realized that I had, in fact, implemented those principles. I had even managed to create an internal consulting team for the project (which eventually proved to be a futile exercise, but showed that I had not lost sight of implementation fundamentals). So why were my work results not ideal by my own standards?
The answer turned out to be a simple one: Because I had a business to run, and so I couldn’t truly concentrate on improving it at the same time. In order to take the company to that next level of excellence, I would need more resources than I had at my disposal; non-financial resources, additional expertise, added talent, a fresh insight, and, most important, more time. I needed the help of a consultant-me.
I returned to being a consultant shortly after that, and have recently joined Trindent Consulting. I now work with outstanding colleagues who practice the values and approaches I learned to appreciate through my time in management.
And if there is one valuable piece of advice I can pass along to operational leaders, it’s this: If you think you’re running a tight ship, contact us so we can show you – and work with you to fix – the “red” in your operation. I know for a fact that you will be glad you did.
The author of this blog Arthur Buduryan is an Engagement Manager at Trindent Consulting