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Why You May Be The Reason Your Consultant Is Failing

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August 28, 2020
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5 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

How hard is it to find consultants in this day and age? Well, it’s not difficult at all. Thanks to online consulting marketplaces, you connect with hundreds of top consultants with a few clicks.

But are things as easy as they seem? Is it true that you can just visit a freelance platform, hire a consultant, and have your problems solved? Well, not quite - and it’s not always the consultant’s fault.

There’s no doubt that in rare circumstances, a consultant might be a little inexperienced to handle the job. And you may think, why consultants fail? But sometimes, companies knowingly or unknowingly do things that might result in the failure of their engagement with the consultant. Let’s understand what these issues are.

1. You and Your Team Aren’t on the Same Page

If your team is not really sure that your decision to hire a consultant will actually work, your whole engagement with the consultant might have an unproductive start. After all, it’s your company and your representatives will be responsible for reviewing or approving some (if not all) of the consultant’s tasks. It’s crucial that everyone on the team is on board with the idea of hiring a consultant in the first place. And it’s up to you to convince everyone in your company - from senior executives to interns - that your decision to hire a consultant will be a win-win situation for everyone.

For any of your consulting projects to succeed, you need to know exactly why you want to hire a consultant. Is it because you want to fill a skill gap? Is it because you want to hire temporary support for a short-term project? Whatever the reason might be, it’s very important for you and your whole team to be on the same page. Everyone in the company should see an advantage in bringing a consultant on board. In fact, you should explain every department the benefits of working with a consultant in detail. For example, you can tell your employees that their workload will decrease if a consultant comes in and streamlines the operations process.

"Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability." – Patrick Lencioni

2. You’re Not Letting Your Consultant Collect the Much-Needed Information

It might seem very strange to share confidential business information with a consultant that you just met a few days ago. However, consulting projects always begin with data collection - that’s just the way it is. A consultant can’t analyze your problem efficiently if there’s some important information that’s missing. If the analysis is not top-notch, the recommendations won’t be either. And if the recommendations are not the best they can be, your engagement with the consultant might not be fruitful. Do you see the chain reaction that a lack of relevant information can start? Let’s consider an example to emphasize this point.

Suppose you hire a consultant to increase the sales of your company’s services. Now the consultant wants to invite some of your clients and conduct a focus group discussion to collect some key information. However, you’re reluctant to let an outsider get close to your clients and you reject this strategy. Because of this, the consultant has no choice but to make assumptions and fly blind. As a result of this, the recommendations might be based on suppositions instead of reality. That’s why it’s really important that you let your consultant know what they ask for. If you’re concerned about your company’s confidential information getting leaked, you can always make your consultant sign an NDA and/or a non-compete agreement.

3. Lack of Commitment From Senior Executives

Consulting projects are not just run by consultants. Without the support of senior executives, a consultant might feel powerless in an organization. There could be a lot of reasons behind this. Sometimes, disagreements and politics at a senior level can hinder a consultant’s progress. Maybe because some executives are still not okay with the fact that an outsider is telling them what to do. Some senior decision-makers might feel undermined when an external consultant is solving their internal problem.

However, sometimes, the senior executives might be making a consultant’s job difficult unknowingly. Seniors might be too busy to respond to the consultant’s emails on time, and sometimes, they might need to reschedule meetings due to urgent business tasks. All this could unintentionally cause consulting projects to delay. Fear of change can also be an issue. In an ideal world, a consultant would just give their recommendations to a company and expect them to accept it without question. In reality, however, there are going to be questions and doubts. Not saying it shouldn’t happen, but too much hesitation to implement a consultant’s advice might result in a failed engagement and you may think the consultant failed you.

4. Groupthink

In simple terms, groupthink is a phenomenon in which a group of people would rather do what other members of the group ‘think’ is right. Instead of logically evaluating a situation and acting accordingly. When you hire a consultant, they’re going to tell you what changes need to occur. This is when things might get a bit complicated. For example, if a consultant recommends that your packaging’s colors might need to be changed a bit because they’re very similar to a competitor’s, then groupthink and resistance might surface. You might hear things like: “How can we change our brand colors?” or “This is ridiculous”.

Even though a consultant has two decades of experience and is confident they’re making the right decision, groupthink might stop you from doing what’s actually right. The groupthink mentality is very skeptical of outsiders - that’s the main feature of this phenomenon. And unfortunately, a consultant is an outsider who’s temporarily hired to fix a problem. Now, this constant battle between groupthink and logical decisions will eventually take its toll on the project. It can only be prevented if the internal team is open to new ideas and doesn’t feel threatened by outside opinion.

5. Lack of Collaboration

Teams that work within their department and don’t collaborate with others might end up being ineffective. When a consultant is involved in your business, they might need to work with employees from various departments. And if everyone is operating within their own little bubble and not sharing relevant information with each other, things might get a bit awkward for a consultant. However, there’s a solution to this. If the CEO, or another senior executive, conducts a big team meeting and invites all the departments, it’ll be easy for everyone to share what’s going on within their department and stay on top of all the relevant information. Luckily, this is easy to do in SMEs because the teams are relatively smaller and meetings are easily manageable.


For a consulting project to succeed, the consultant and the company must work hand in hand. Oftentimes, when an engagement with a consultant fails, the blame is usually passed on to the consultant. However, as you saw in this article, even the company has some accountability to ensure that a consultant can put their best forward and help the business achieve its desired results. As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to find consultants these days, but it’s the execution that might prove to be difficult.