Recently I speak pretty often about Kanban. It is a great starting point for follow-up lobby discussions about dealing with projects and leading teams. Surprisingly often I answer questions built over similar schema: given this situation or that issue, what would you do?
Since it is close to impossible to give a sure shot answer for question like this we either go deeper or we discuss a set of possible choices. However pretty often I’m left with this vague feeling that discussion, while interesting, was futile since we’ve just scratched the surface of the issue. To deal with the problem we should actually do something about that, not just talk. That is unless we’re Jedi and we can use the Force and tell the problem to disappear.
And there another problem appears. As soon as discussion is finished it isn’t my issue anymore. I don’t work for your organization. I have no power whatsoever to do anything to help you with the issue.
This brings me to the title question. Technically I can work for your organization. For a day. Or a couple of hours. You can make this problem mine. At least temporarily. But the question is whether you want it.
Hiring a consultant is a mixed blessing.
- Fresh blood. You bring someone with fresh point of view to the team. Pretty often it is a trigger to start discussion about some subjects or to reconsider old ideas which have been dropped for some reason. You can’t cut the argument saying that you’ve already discussed it. The least you have to do is to summarize outcomes of past argument.
- Experience (almost) for free. Coach or consultant brings her experience along. It should be significant. It should be built over a lot of “been there, seen that” situations. And this is something which vast majority of teams lack.
- Expertise. If you don’t make a mistake choosing a consultant you get subject matter expert who can help you to change some specific area of your organization. You may not be able to afford, or want, hiring the person as a regular employee since this whole employment thing is such a long relationship. I mean usually it is so. Consulting gigs don’t have that string attached.
- Not a full-time job. There are tasks which aren’t the part of the job of either of your employees, yet they should be done. You don’t need a skilled agile trainer in the team if you run small software shop but you could use his help, to take the most obvious example.
- No knowledge about the organization. Outsider by definition doesn’t know all the specifics of your company, thus her advice may be hardly implementable or a bit disconnected from reality. Learning specifics of the organization takes time. Time of consultant is usually counted in dollars. Lots of them.
- Hiring consultant is tricky. Not that it is hard to find one. There are plenty of them. (Or should I say us?) The problem is if you choose the wrong person you waste your money big time. Not only you spend dollars to pay the guy but also you spend time and effort to support his fruitless work.
- Not a full-time job. Consulting gigs are like short-term loans in football (or soccer for those of you who live in US). You get a helping hand but only for a very short time. Then the guy moves along and you’re left with whatever he leaves behind. He doesn’t have live with outcomes of his advice.
When we think about consultants or coaches there is also strong NIH syndrome. People tend to think they can do better by themselves than with help of outsiders. On the other hand if there isn’t strong leadership in organization it may be easier to reach people with the message when it is delivered by trainer, coach or consultant who isn’t the part of the company.
So coming back to the initial point, would you consider hiring an outsider as a helping hand to fix development process, implement new project management approach or work with your leaders?
If yes, please consider your humble author as an option. Either way, share your opinion in comments below.
Um, have I just written a sale pitch?