First published on LinkedIn, December 14, 2016
According to recycling.org.uk, being eco-friendly can be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you’re doing it right. It suggests you improve your recycling efforts by learning which type of collection is best and why different areas recycle and collect in different ways.
Is consulting like recycling?
Consulting can be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting good advice. You can improve your use of consultants by learning which type of consulting is best for you and why different firms deliver their services in different ways.
Expert, pair of hands or collaborative?
For example, do you want to hire an expert because you do not have the skills yourself? Might work in the short-term, but how is this going to build capability to solve similar issues in the future? Or perhaps you’re just short of a pair of hands to deliver a change programme. Arguably, this is not consulting at all, more like hiring an expensive interim manager and again, once they leave, who will pick up the reins?
And then there is true collaborative consulting, where a whole-system and people-centred approach is taken to jointly understanding your issues, shaping and delivering solutions together and building your capability to solve similar problems for yourself in the future. This requires consistently applying fundamental, robust principles and practices to achieve sustainable change. You can think of this as Eco-friendly consulting because it makes best use of what you already have. It does this by following that maxim of managing waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce your use of consultants that use management fads
Wherever you look, there are fads: celebrities waxing on about the latest crash diet, ‘experts’ explaining how to use live snails or bird poo for skincare, and ‘tweet mirrors’ in the clothing section of department stores to name a few recent ones I’ve spotted.
The world of management and change can also sometimes appear full of fads: total quality management, lean thinking, six sigma, I could go on and on.
You can even have a go at inventing our own management fad: pick three numbers from 1-10 and have a go, for instance 3-6-9 will generate ‘Authentic Customer-focused Partnering’, doesn’t that sound good?
Management fad generator
Extract from the Management Fad Generator, courtesy of Sheffield Business School
Add a few more words of your own and generate your very own management fad!
How do you know which of the ‘latest thinking’ is real and grounded in robust change theory and which are just fads that have been hijacked by firms looking to get hold of your money, with no real insight into the processes of sustainable change?
Thankfully for every fad, there is an antidote: perhaps listen to a dietician rather than a celebrity for slimming advice, try a value and common sense product for skincare such as NO AD (a company that does not advertise and has no brand and no superfluous packaging and hence is half the price of other ‘brands’, and wins awards for best sun care products), or even shop at Springfield’s traditional department store Costington’s, whose slogan is “100 years without a slogan!” Okay that last one is from the Simpsons, but you get my point.
Ironically (nay, satirically) Costington’s does indicate that becoming fad-free can itself become a gimmick.
Reuse old theories that work
I believe deeply in tried and trusted processes of change; I believe there are three things you need to do well to effect change: (1) be clear on what needs to change; (2) invest in the support people need to make the change; (3) provide (positive) consequences for those who embrace the change and (negative) consequences for those who resist it. Consistently applying this theory will save you time and money, and build a reliable approach you can reuse again and again.
Recycle those theories into practice
“Nothing is so practical as a good theory”, as one sage once said (it was Kurt Lewin, btw, in 1941). And he was right. Re-badging old theory as new techniques might even be desirable, modernizing ideas that work in today’s reality. A bit like upcycling, really. However, I’d recommend you check the theory that underpins your consultant’s techniques is robust, tested in the real world and not just another management fad, otherwise you might just be buying cheap tat that will fall apart when you try to put it to good use.
Jeremy J Lewis
#eco-friendly consulting from @growthepig