Where Consultants Add Value

One of the biggest values external consultants offer is a fresh perspective. With a hopefully better understanding of the broader possibilities based on experience with many other organizations and efforts, consultants often see the gaps and opportunities between the requirements an organization, program, or project is attempting to address and the mechanisms it's employing to do so. 

The value of this external perspective is enormous, but it too diminishes over time. Consultative value often follows a common pattern with some value delivered initially through the introduction of new ideas and the fresh perspective on the organization’s activities and approaches. The value peaks as individuals apply that knowledge and insight while leveraging a better understanding of the organization and how things get done internally. During this period, with a developed understanding of the political and organizational structures, processes, and players, good consultants help drive value and make progress towards goals. After a period of time however, that value slowly diminishes as the consultant becomes to some extent viewed as, or even behaves like, part of the organization. 

  A common value curve for external consultants.

A common value curve for external consultants.

The reduction in consulting value to an organization over time is the result of a combination of factors. One issue is that once a consultant or consulting firm has shared its unique perspective and insights, there simply may not be much more for them to say on a given subject. Few consultants will say the only additional value they can add is to simply repeat what has already been communicated, but this is often the case. If an effort is not moving forward and consulting resources are not transitioning to planning, facilitation or other roles, their overall value drops. In addition, even external resources will succumb over time to the same realities as internal resources and reach a point of simply treading water based on their own accumulated baggage within the organization.