I often talk about change being a constant – necessarily – for successful entrepreneurial people. As we strive to make a difference in our ever-changing world, the search for newer, better, less expensive, more effective ways of doing things is becoming ever more important than the need to ‘maintain the status quo’.
However for organisations and institutions in any sector, to effectively stimulate and, as importantly, sustain change can be a huge challenge. As a result many are turning to external help to introduce objectivity and specialist expertise to their own internal capabilities. As a consultancy that provides insights into enterprise and entrepreneurship, ICE’s objective is to help financial, academic, commercial and government institutions to get closer to the small business community; to become more enterprising; and to introduce effective enterprise strategies and policy. Our experience of navigating organisational development and change is therefore well-honed; I was therefore delighted to be asked by Dr Julie Hodges, Associate Professor in Management at Durham University Business School and a leading expert on organisational change, to share some of ICE’s experiences as a contribution towards her latest book Consultancy, Organisational Development and Change – a practical guide to giving value.
I prepared a case study for Julie (see ‘Transition’ pages 212-15 if you have the book) to illustrate how consultants can support organisations to implement change that achieves a positive impact and that can be sustained beyond the exit of the consultant, focusing on ICE’s experience of supporting institutions to think and behave differently, in particular with respect enterprise and entrepreneurship. Obviously I need to encourage you to buy the book to read the case study – and its context – in detail, alongside a rich collection of other narratives prepared by esteemed colleagues and peers (not least Professor Warren Bennis, pioneer of contemporary leadership studies). However I would like to share with you these 3 key pointers that, based on my own experience, will assure a positive outcome from any consultancy-based change project, if you are considering either commissioning or delivering one:
- Consultants need to take responsibility for designing the approach, having objectively identified the ‘real’ areas for development and so avoiding superficial quick fixes.
- A ‘whitewash’ can be avoided if consultants take the time to build a robust, trust-based relationship with the client organisation from the outset, to provide a foundation for open discussion and the design of pragmatic solutions (that tackle ‘the more difficult questions’).
- Project delivery should provide for ensuring the organisation has the capacity, capability and desire to embed and sustain the targeted change long after the consultant’s departure to avoid any investment in consultancy having limited impact beyond the short-term.
Congratulations to Dr Julie Hodges for an insightful guide that bridges theory with practice, and for the privilege of making my own contribution.