Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Magazine article Management Today

First-Class Coach

Article excerpt

Q: I'm a senior manager in a fairly large business that hasn't been doing too well recently. Various top-down ideas have been tried but nothing seems to work. My CEO wants to bring in the consultants but I'd like him to try my ideas before he goes ahead with a costly programme. I've spent time talking to people right through the business from shop floor to senior level and have formulated my own ideas for change. I'd like to submit this to the board but I'm not sure how well this will go down. How can I persuade him to give it a go? A: Time was when any large organisation that could afford to bring in one of the big five management consultancies to sort out its strategy or structure would have been thought wise to do so. These consultants were smart: 'big picture' thinkers who brought models and theories that could revolutionise a business. But in the late 20th century, much of the glitter fell off and a cynicism grew about the effects they might have on an enterprise - aside from the large amount of money they would cost. A consultant was cynically described as someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time - and then keeps it.

There were conspicuous consultancy failures - cases where the new strategy developed by the consultants seemed plausible but was never implemented, because it was impossible to put into practice or the management felt no sense of ownership of it and so blocked its adoption. No wonder many of the big practices have retreated from general management consultancy to focus on IT and outsourced HR. Yet even this has its pitfalls, as the recent fiasco with Accenture and the NHS recruitment software demonstrated.

All the above may help your case. The board may be uneasy about significant expenditure with no certainty of success. Nevertheless, your firm is in a parlous state, and desperate causes require desperate remedies, which could include bringing in external advisers. Even if your ideas are good, you risk being labelled as an enthusiastic amateur, incapable of making a difference.

You could increase your credibility by recruiting other respected managers to back you or even join you in this project. And if you employ some of the approaches used by management consultants, you'll greatly increase the likelihood that your ideas will be accepted. …

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