Monday, April 28, 2014

Seeing with a Consultant's Eye: Eight Keys to Moving Your Institution Ahead

One does not have to be a consultant to look at one's business with a consultant's eye. The following list of eight keys to success will help you look at your own place of work with a fresh perspective. 

1. Be a good observer. Above all, a good consultant will gain an overview of operations. From the way people interact to the arrangement of the furniture, everything that occurs and exists in a business can impact its effectiveness. Step back from day -to-day activities and just observe how things run with the procedures you have in place.

2. Understand the culture of the institution. One advantage an employee has over a consultant is usually an understanding of the culture from the get-go. A consultant must work to understand how departments function and staff get along before they can make many recommendations or they are liable to come up against unexpected resistance.  

3. Be flexible. Be open to change. If it is clear from observation that something isn't working, consider what changes may make things better. Base your ideas on education and advanced knowledge. Learn what other similar institutions do in similar situations. Educate yourself on particular areas of business through research, reading, networking and schooling. Something that may have worked for twenty years could now be tired. Stay abreast of new developments. Do not be tied to the idea that, "It has always been done this way and therefore that's the way it should remain."

4. Make a plan. Do not just change for the sake of change. Consider your options. Write them down. Think about what each change will do for your organization. Include a change's possible positive and negative outcomes. Align any plan you instill with the organization's mission. The more closely you align to an overall vision, the more likely your plan will succeed and help propel the institution. (If the organization does not have a mission, helping to create one must be your #1 goal.)

5. Consider contingencies in your plan. If one change turns out to be ineffectual, make sure you have ideas for backup. If plan a doesn't work, have ideas for plans b and c before you need to shift your focus. Waiting until you need a backup plan to create one can cause a loss in momentum and a sense of resignation in the face of failure.

6. Work with employees and do not rely solely on top down solutions. Employee buy-in is a big key to success. As you are planning, build relationships with workers. Seek ways to elicit their input when appropriate. Weigh their ideas with yours. Teach about your methods and reasons when necessary. ("Do this because I said so" is not a great method for building trust and propelling change.) Boost a sense of community by showing how change will benefit the health of the institution. Not everyone will be happy all the time, but showing that you are considering a big picture will benefit your steps toward change.

7. Be able to quantify your success. It is one thing to make changes and quite another to ensure that they are good changes. Success should be measurable in dollars, satisfaction, or efficiency.

8. Be honest with yourself. If something isn't working, put the breaks on. Perpetually re-evaluate your activities. Something that worked yesterday may not work today.

Change does not happen overnight. Yet, continually striving to change with the times and to make a fresh difference is important. If you give up striving, it is time to move on. If you run out of ideas for helping your institution grow and remain up-to-date, maybe it's time to bring in a consultant...

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