It’s so frustrating as a leader to know there is an issue that is not being addressed or an opportunity that is not being explored. Your gut is telling you something must be done but you do not have the capacity to spend time exploring what is happening and finding a solution. You might be pretty clear in your mind as to what you think needs to happen but you don’t have the time to evidence your gut feel and put in place an appropriate action plan.
These are perfect times to bring in an experienced consultant to give you the capacity you need to analyse the situation, develop a plan of action, and help you to make things happen.
Using a consultant usually won’t bring you a revolutionary idea, in fact, that’s usually not what you need anyway. What they will bring you is an external viewpoint, insight from the marketplace, a guiding voice and expert analysis.
Look for a consultant who won’t be afraid to live by their advice and roll their sleeves up to help you to get things done. The last thing you need is a report which will sit on your shelf and piles a whole load more onto your to-do list.
Make sure your consultant is flexible in their approach and understands how your institution differs. You don’t want a report which simply replaces another university’s name with your own. One size does not fit all and won’t help you.
Consider what you really need your consultant to focus on and listen to their views as to what is needed. You may need to resist the urge to widen the brief; there is merit in focussed timely action versus large-scale projects where it can be harder to see quick ROI. Also, ensure your consultant is politically adept and will work artfully with your senior colleagues – political fall-out from a clumsy approach will stand in the way of what needs to be done.
Decide whether you are best to work with a sole trader consultant or a firm. The former will, in all likelihood, be cheaper, and if you get the right expert you might get exactly what you need. The advantage of working with a firm is that many issues are better tackled by a small team of consultants with varied experience between them. A firm is also more likely to be able to deliver to tight timelines and will have the back-office administration to support the project.
Create a brief and agree this with your consultants. Be clear about your expectations in terms of deliverables, timeline and impact. Look for consultants who are focused on how the work will be delivered and giving you recommendations that are practical and implementable within a short timeframe. Make sure your consultants really understand the HE sector and its complexities – approaches that may have an impact in the corporate sector will only apply if carefully adapted by consultants with a deep understanding of HE.
Halpin is a management consultancy for the HE sector. Our team are recognised leaders with deep knowledge of HE. Working with us is like having a virtual senior leadership team at your side, we can support you to move from gut instinct to practical solution. Our team gives you the capacity and support you need when you need it most.