It’s hard to know where to start when you are tasked with building or optimizing (and yes, sometimes rescuing) your PMO or PM practice in your organization. Maybe people will turn to consultants, and for good reason, they are the experts at this, right? Well, maybe. It depends on who you hire. But how do you know you are making the right investment and that this company will be the right one to partner with you on your journey to build or evolve your PMO or PM practices?
Here are some things to look for when you look for a consulting firm to help you:
- Beware of the cookie cutter approach. A good consulting firm that does this type of work regularly should be able to talk to you about the system they follow to successfully support you in building or evolving your internal PMO/PM capability. That’s different than having a cookie cutter implementation approach that they just rinse and repeat in every client organization. I’ve seen this way too many times. When I was on the inside building and running PMOs, consulting firms would come in and just plop down the same thing they just did for another company without any regard for if that solution would work for us. It always ended in disaster.
- Insist that they have proven experience doing this. One of the common ways that consulting firms get bigger is by bringing in newer staff to learn the ropes by doing. During the sales process, they will introduce you to the experts with the knowledge and expertise to help you successfully implement the changes you are trying to make. Unfortunately, after the contract is signed, the actual boots on the ground are staff that haven’t done this before or they only know how to follow the cookie cutter approach. You will need people that can think on their feet and break outside of a process or checklist they are supposed to follow and help you actually solve YOUR business problems in YOUR organization.
- Ask them about similar challenges. Make sure you ask them about how they have done what you are asking them to do. If they are there to help you rescue your PMO, they should be able to give you examples of where they had to rescue a PMO that was failing. Get specific on what they did in that organization to get things back on track.Ask them to talk to you about things they wish they would have done differently. Everyone should have some learnings, some lessons from prior experience that have shaped how they provide services now. These are good points that will tell help you determine if this firm is willing to be honest with you and that they make a conscious effort to learn from mistakes and continue to improve.
- You still need to run the show. It’s absolute ok to leverage consultants to help you by providing industry perspective, but you must still run the show. When you turn things over to the consultants completely, you could risk them taking the team in a direction that is not in alignment with your overall strategy. You also run the risk that things fall apart the minute they leave. Great consultants can help you put systems and processes in place to ensure continued evolution and sustainment for your PM organization. For more on this, check out Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Your PMO.
- Leverage them as your voice. Have you ever noticed that when you say something as an employee of the organization it didn’t carry as much weight as the highly-paid consultant they brought in that said the exact same thing? This used to drive me nuts! Until I learned how to leverage this to my advantage.
Instead of fighting the natural human tendency to connect, place the highest value on what you pay the most for, why not work it to your advantage?
Once I realized that the consultants I was working with were in sync with my goals, I would bring them into my office and talk about the outcomes I was looking to achieve and the messaging that the executives needed to hear. We’d walk into the meetings perfectly in sync and the consultants heard, “Wow, what a great idea!” and I got what I wanted, which was the ultimate solution to move us forward. Let go of your ego of having to be right or having to be the one with the idea and focus on the outcomes you want to achieve…then get the consultant to make it their idea. They win, you win.
- Make sure they teach you how to fish. Good consultants can show you what to do, great consultants will make sure you can stand on your own when they leave. It’s a policy in our company that we build in capability development of internal staff into every engagement. Our business is built entirely on referrals and reputation. That means that we will only be successful if our clients are not only happy with us while we are there, but long after we are gone.Make sure that you build capability development of your internal staff into the contract and then ensure that key resources are partnered with any consultant staff to watch and learn from them. The staff should be more senior folks that have learned to coach and develop people so that they can explain to your team what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why it is important.
- Leverage them for industry expertise. You want to know what the best in your industry are doing in terms of PMO or PM capability? Leverage a consulting firm that keeps their ear to the ground on what is going on or that works with clients in the same industry. You want them to have seen this movie before and tell you about all the pitfalls you need to avoid, as well as the tried and true techniques that have worked in similar organizations.
Consultants can be a valuable resource for you to Get. It. Done. with your PM organization if you know what to look for and how to get the most value from them. It’s about driving the biggest IMPACT for the investment. The right partner can make all the difference.
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