Consulting: Egos, Ownership and Effectiveness

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car.

Get that straight. If there is little ownership, there is little care. It took me a long time to learn that crucial lesson, basically, a couple of years, from the time I left a successfully implemented and working project to see it fail and die off shortly thereafter. Why? Because I took so much ownership in the project that even the Plant Manager was referring to it as, “Scott’s Project,” and he was also a bit embarrassed that I was able to do some things that he apparently had not.

How some newbie young consultant could come in, find improvement possibilities and then implement them and improve morale left him a bit perplexed — it was better for him, personally, to just let things go away!

Some colleagues of mine are starting to consult with some of their clients using the results and outcomes of my team building games and  Square Wheels cartoons to put themselves into a position where the company will pay them to come in and implement those ideas. Neat!

So here is a summary of the things I shared with them in the last of a few messages that frame up what they might do — call these my Learning Lessons about Successful Implementation:

  • One of the most important lessons I learned early in all this is that paradox of ownership.
  • As my consulting skills improved, I more and more became the expert.
  • As my expertise increased, I was able to see more things and come up with much better solutions.
  •  As I continued to improve, things happened more smoothly– my conversations with managers were more targeted and the programs I was involved in were called, “Scott’s Program.”

All this was very gratifying and the designs, strategies and implementation all went very well…until Scott “left the building” and was no longer around to followup and observe and reinforce and all that stuff.

Since I was the only one with any ownership of anything, when I left, there was no motivation to sustain the initiatives even though they worked great. There was no one collecting data or analyzing results.

The key is OWNERSHIP AND IT WAS ME WHO OWNED THE INITIATIVES.

Be cautious of all of the above. Go slowly, share ideas upward and give credit to those who generate the ideas, get them actively involved at the front lines and get the managers actively involved. Use your status to make sure the more senior managers know what the managers were doing successfully and where they were making personal improvements with their staffs (the personal growth stuff).

Be careful to not allow your own need to get some reinforcement and recognition interfere with the reality that you do not need that nearly as much as your client’s people do!

And the managers! Ensure that the middle managers are getting some recognition from their managers so that they are more likely to sustain things.

Make sure that the managers understand that their role is to encourage and support their reports in gaining ownership of the improvement initiatives. And be sure to cascade that upwards!

The consultant can take very little personal credit with the organization on any of this or it muddles things up. Take pleasure from doing all the documentation and for your underground role in generating the results.

Otherwise, it becomes yours instead of theirs and dooms the project to long-term failure.

Nobody Ever Washes a Rental Car

Resistance can come from anywhere and take all kinds of forms…

Many will simply watch and voice their opinions

Ah, the paradoxes we deal with in the organizational improvement arena…

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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