Don’t outsource your change

Sarah Willcox

Image of large hammer cracking small nut illustrating the Fairisle article Don't outsource your change

Why it’s important you don’t outsource your change.

We recently enjoyed presenting a session on resistance at the UK Universities Human Resources conference.  Discussion after the session prompted a number of thoughts and insights. One delegate asked if I thought that hiring external consultants caused resistance to change. It may be an odd thing for a consultant to say, but I agreed, wholeheartedly, that this was often true.

Risks and problems

There are all kinds of risks and problems with contracting external consultants to help you deliver policy development or strategic change. One of these is that responsibility for the change is sub-contracted out to someone whose values may not align with yours.  They have not experienced the culture in which the change is taking place.  In addition, they won’t have to live with the consequences of the change.

Short term fix

From the organisation’s point of view, it’s easy to feel that the change is ‘being taken care of’.  Everyone can get on with the ‘day job’ while ticking the policy/strategic initiative boxes . But if team members aren’t engaged and don’t have the opportunity to co-create the solutions, any change is unlikely to ‘stick’.  At best the changes ‘driven through’ by a consultant are likely to be a short term fix. In the worst case, they may result in reputational damage or legal liability.

Don’t outsource your change – contract for skills

Although I’ve argued against outsourcing your change initiative, I think you will find value in contracting for a particular set of skills, insights and abilities. You and your team have expert knowledge in your business and of what works well and what doesn’t. You also know more about your  legal and financial constraints than anyone else.

What you will find helpful is assistance clarifying the vision for the change that you all want to achieve. It is also of benefit to have someone outside the organisation support the creative process of generating the plan for change and facilitating its delivery. In these circumstances an external consultant is ideally placed to support, coach and challenge the team to deliver the best change possible.

Plan your change

If you’re planning a policy initiative or strategic change:

  • Understand what problem you’re really trying to solve.
  • Evaluate the expertise and skills you have within the organisation.
  • Don’t worry about using time from your own people to deliver the change.  It will pay back in terms of employee engagement and long term sustainability.
  • Trust your people to have the skills and knowledge to deliver a solution that works for your organisation.
  • Use an approach – like Scrum Agile – to prioritise tasks, strengthen teams, and create a solution that meets your unique needs.

If you’re going to sub-contract anything, choose someone who can help you achieve these things. Fairisle is a good place to start!

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