How To Improve Internal Consulting Jobs

One of my clients recently completed and internal, independent review of one of their organization’s critical functions.  For them, internal meant that all of the data gathering and analysis was done by their own staff.  And it was independent because none of them came from this functional area and didn’t have a personal/professional stake in the outcomes.  In and of itself, an in-house consulting-like assignment isn’t a novel concept—especially for some of our cash-strapped clients. And, the results are mixed but (this is according to clients , mind you) tend to bunch at the spotty, half-assed, wasted effort end of the spectrum.

In this case, however, the process and result was really remarkable.  To start, the internal team was comprised of rock stars from across the organization.  These were really, really talented, committed people.  The group was headed by two senior leaders who did all the right things—coordinated with each other, supported the effort, drove the schedule, provided thoughtful input, pulled in the right resources, etc.  It was seriously awesome to watch.

This was work that could have, in theory, gone to a contracted management consultant (probably for about $500K). Instead, they pulled it off and probably ended up with a better end product because of culture context they were able to bake into the recommendations.  Anyway, I had the privilege of playing a small role and saw this project and product develop and evolve and I’m grateful for that experience.

There are a handful of best practices that any organization might adopt when undertaking an internal review that I could pull out. 

  • The key one would be, if you’re serious, reserve this strategy for only the most critical, important issue facing the organization.
  • Then, get the right people on the team.  Of course, they’re too busy.  They’re great and they’re doing a million other great things but it’s better to have 12-15 “A” team players than a mix that ends up being a drag on thoughtfulness and momentum. Invest the time upfront in structuring the data gathering approach to make sure everything relevant is captured the first time. 
  • Establish a realistic (probably long) timeline to aid communication and setting expectations. 
  • Lastly, figure out which recommendations will need to be backed up with benchmarks or external data points to build acceptance.  The biggest problem to running and internal consulting assignment like this is that there is a tendency on the receiving end to attack the credibility of the team and lack of rigor in the process.  If you’ve done the first two, you can nip or, at least, address resistance more effectively.