Consulting Best Practices

How Herding Cats Allows Consultants to Get Things Done

People tend to resist being told that they have to change, especially as it pertains to the way they work. Lew Sauder believes in such cases that ‘herding cats’ might actually be the most practical solution when consultants need to get client employees on board with a new methodology.

You Meow Goodbye, and I Meow Hello

Businesses will come to consulting firms seeking discipline for their employees, so that the business can start using a formal methodology to get things done. Consultants will precisely follow the methodology that their firm follows. Employees, aside from not wanting to be bothered with change in the first place, may not understand how or why new practices being implemented are important to a project. Furthermore, consultants are likely to be evaluated according to how well they followed a methodology, whereas client employees are more likely to be evaluated by results. In this case, employees have little incentive to ever attempt the new methodology.

What generally happens is that employees can agree to work under the new method for the duration of a project or while the consultants are there, and then they will immediately sink back into their old ways at the start of the next project. All consultants can really do in such a situation is herd the cats. In this case, it means they should hound employees to be following the new processes to the letter, while meanwhile making an effort to make the actual client as strong in the methodology as possible. Sauder elaborates:

Consultants deal with issues and exceptions, sometimes without the client’s awareness of the behind the scenes activities. Consultants also diligently follow the defined processes of the methodology. Clients follow those procedures. But they might not direct their own team to do the same, if not for the push from the client.

The client herds the cats that would not normally follow the process with as much discipline. When the consultants leave the client, the cats don’t do as well at herding themselves.

It may not be an ideal situation, where the business’s health is out of your hands the instant you step out the doors, but all you can do is try. You can read Sauder’s full post here:

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