In the Netherlands, one gets the feeling that one half of the country is advising the other half. The consultants-density in our country seems to be about the highest in the world. Intercultural experts observe a relationship with our consensus-drive and the corresponding lack of courage to make your own choices and stand for the consequences.
However it may be, in the Netherlands people are suffering from ‘consultancy-fatigue’ and a lot of people start to get irritated by the habit of both companies and the government to continuously hire the big-name-consultancies to back up and communicate the decisions and choices that management should be making and communicating itself. By hiring a big-name-consultancy one can always claim: “I hired the best expertise (which is a cover-up for: I hide behind the ascribed authority of the consultancy instead of standing firm myself and doing it myself).”
Contrary to consultancies, our advice is: do it yourself
For me personally, whenever clients hire us did this under the heading of ‘consultant’ or communicated that we are going to help them as a ‘consultancy’ I have always felt a certain uneasiness. As far as we really consult or advise companies to do something our main message is primarily: do it yourself. Make your own choices, back them up with your own reasoning and messages, communicate these and make sure that your own change capability gets to a higher level. And also the facilitation and coaching you hire us for is something you should be able to do yourself as fast as possible. So during an organisational development programme we advise them to get to the ‘DIY’ (Do It Yourself) phase or better said the ‘DIT’ (Do It Together) phase as soon as possible.
Our clients experience our approach as different and transformative. It requires another mind-set, unleashing everyone’s full potential and operating with more ownership and (self-)trust to co-create the change, and to facilitate and coach each other while implementing the change. To some of them my statement was: ”We are not consultants, on whose expertise you depend (albeit temporarily), but you can call us ‘transultants’, who will stimulate and facilitate you to do it yourself and do it together. So my goal is to get you to do what you hire us for as quickly as possible.”
Strengthening the change capability
One of our clients thought this to be a strange business model: to make yourself redundant as quickly as possible. I replied by saying that for me this is the only credible business model if you claim to be offering your client a systemic and sustainable solution for the problem/challenge at hand. The challenges our clients face more often than not boil down to strengthening the change capability of the organisation, the teams and the individuals. And what better way to prove that this change capability has come to a higher level than seeing your own people being able to get eachother into motion, to facilitate and coach each other to make the change happen – something they were not able to do before.
This reminds me of a statement by Lao Tse on leadership:
The wicked leader is he who people despise; the good leader is he who people revere; the great leader is he whose people say: ‘we did it ourselves’.
If you replace the word ‘leader’ by ‘consultant’ and ‘we did it ourselves’ by ‘we can do it ourselves now’ you probably see what I mean.
Consultancies should also be more agile
Are we as so-called ‘transultants’ philanthropists and do we want to see the market for consultancies collapse? The first is not the case – we do charge for our services – and the second is partially true: the part of the consultancy market that is focussed on making and keeping clients dependent on hiring as many consultants as possible we would gladly see disappearing.
The current trends and developments towards self-management, digitalisation and agility require organisations, teams and individuals to have a much higher change capability and change agility than before. Another way to put it is that the expertise, skills and tools of consultants increasingly need to be present and available within their own organisations. So what will remain for the consultancies that speculate on and are dependent on the ‘learned helplessness’ and the big budgets of organisations, getting them to hire as many consultants as possible? Well, my bet is that if they do not transform themselves and increase their own change capability and agility they will disappear…