Fire consultants who do this

BIC - February 2018
By: Shawn M. Galloway
Printable Version

Mature organizations move accountability beyond a focus on just results to what individuals are doing to affect the results. But they never forget about results. At a recent consulting engagement, a client had just completed an audit of an important culture improvement effort that had been deployed throughout the organization over 10 years. The efforts were stale, the results had flat-lined and the leaders of the process had drifted away from the original, motivated focus they once had. They needed help and turned to the people they thought could bring new results.

The client asked the consulting firm that initially implemented the change process to come in, take a look and make recommendations on what to do to turn things around to obtain new, breakthrough results. They wanted a detailed plan on what to address, how, and what the new focus area should be. While I was there helping with a different problem, leadership received the report. It essentially stated the client should bring the consultant back in to retrain everyone on the methodology and trust in the process, and that doing so would bring new results. Retrain on the original methodology? Trust in the process? This is what gives consultants a bad name. Their consultant was promptly fired, and we were asked to help.

Any methodology that delivers value, creates new results and changes behaviors within an organization creates new realities and ultimately changes or evolves the culture. If the change methodology fails to continuously evolve with the new culture, fails to find new opportunities for efficiency or fails to find ways to fit the new cultural realities, expect it to also fail to produce new results or become stagnant. Going back to retraining everyone on a methodology that worked 10 years ago, when you were a different company with different cultural values, is a horrible idea. It is often said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Telling someone to just trust in a process is then a form of consulting insanity and proves one has never actually been held accountable for results. Leaders who fail to closely monitor results will be replaced by new leaders who will. This is the business reality all consultants must understand, as well as the individuals responsible for bringing in consultants.

Programs, initiatives or any change effort designed to improve performance and culture should be made to fit the organization. The organization should not be made to fit the approach. There are certainly common themes, problems or opportunities that experienced subject matter experts will encounter. I have found, regardless of industry or location, seven key areas of opportunities that, if addressed over time, produce significant improvement in safety performance and culture. This allows me to more quickly identify patterns. But I know not to ever assume which approach would allow for the wins in this area without further diagnosis. While problems might be common, there are always different combinations of these problems and what led to them. More importantly, how you solve them is unique, not only company by company but location by location. Each location will present unique logistical challenges, budgetary and resource constraints, different leadership and followership style, varied histories of successes and failures in change efforts, and differences in what people will support and not support. Distance yourself from those who do not appreciate this, or those who fall too much in love with their own methodology.

Shawn M. Galloway is the CEO of ProAct Safety and co-author of several bestselling books. As an award-winning consultant, adviser, leadership coach and keynote speaker, he has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to improve safety strategy, culture, leadership and engagement. He is also the host of the highly acclaimed weekly podcast series Safety Culture Excellence®.
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