Consultants and Business Transformation


Recently the question of what distinguishes Process Improvement from Business Transformation came up at work.  Having worked in the Process Improvement and Business Transformation space as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Master Black Belt I felt it was largely a matter of scale and complexity.  The counter argument quickly came: Why isn’t a larger more complex project just a larger more complex Process Improvement? 

To make the distinction, my colleague posed that Business Transformations should require the consultation of external experts.  To this I was aghast.  I argued that whether a consultant is involved shouldn’t be done as a matter of course for all large and complex projects.  And definitely not simply to delineate between Process improvement and Business Transformation.  

Here are the four arguments that underpin my thinking:

Trust the Process

Nick Saban Head Football Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide has a mantra “Trust the Process”.  As a perennial powerhouse, that is the key to their success.  Success in business transformation requires a strong process (methodology).  This is what will help ensure consistent results.  A strong methodology practiced effectively can unlock the latent creativity of the people most essential to your business’ success – your people.

Culture is Key

Ask any professional sports club’s General Manager and they’ll tell you that dynasties are built with drafted players, not free agents.  This means home grown talent is key.  Home grown ideas are as essential for business success.  

The people closest to the issue often have the best ideas for how to transform a business system. They only need to be empowered to do so.  The solutions born from within have the greatest chance of adoption and ultimate success as they’re often don’t require the employee culture to make gigantic leaps.  

Leaders vs Followers

Fortune favors the bold is a phrase oft spoken at commencements across the country.  If companies are in business to bedazzle their customers with value-laden products and services so they can reap commensurate amount of value – dare I say fortune – how can they do it by copying what others have done?  Innovation doesn’t require consultants, it requires a strong process, top-down leadership support and an engaged and empowered employees.  

Out of Control

When consultancy is used to delineate between improvement and transformation, the internal Business Transformation team will find themselves between a rock and a hard place.  

Rock: business owners who decide to do their own Process Improvement. Hard Place: pitbull-like consultants who establish their footing as the go-to for all business’ Business Transformation needs.  Where does that leave the internal consultants?  

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-consultancy.  Everybody has to eat.  

However, Internal Business Transformation teams must be very careful when insisting that their business clients source consultants.  Sure, there are definitely times when it’s necessary.  But it should never be done as a matter of course to distinguish between Process Improvement and Business Transformation.