common benefits of consultants and offsites

April 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Business, Professional Development | Leave a comment

Opinions on consultants are typically strong. People swear by them, or they swear about them, and sometimes they swear at them. Detractors tend to believe that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, consult.” The sentiment is that a consultant gets to come in with pie-in-the-sky recommendations based on theories that don’t match reality. That said, I think there are two primary ways a consultant can bring value to an organization or a problem.

First, you can bring in an “expert.” The value here is that they have seen your current situation and/or problem many times over. Experts are most valuable when you have an acute problem like “How do I acquire a small company without crushing their individuality that has made them successful?” Second, whether an expert or not, you can gain a lot of benefit from someone NOT familiar with your particular problem and especially your organization. Freshness of perspective often reveals “simple” problems and solutions that may be hidden right under your nose.

For situations like that, you may not need a consultant – maybe you just need an off-site. I just attended one last week, which is what got me thinking about this. Yes, it had its share of boondoggle elements, but those were, in fact, what ultimately led to some of the best dialog and ideas. We were removed from the culture, so to speak, and could really get a fresh look at things. This leads to significant “why didn’t we think of that before?” moments. Then there’s the personal element that brings people closer together in a way that is difficult to do in an office, and investments in relationships always pay nice dividends. Off-sites can be expensive in terms of direct and opportunity cost, but I believe the freshness of perspective and clarity of thought that they can bring makes them worth it a couple of times a year.

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