I’ve worked with many external consultants on projects through the years. By “external consultants” I mean those not employed by the company as regular employees, but contracted with for a period of time to do a specific set of work. Such arrangements are set up because someone believes that an outside opinion, evaluation or assistance is needed. Sometimes they are right to believe such help is needed, but too often in my experience they are not.
There can be a mindset on the part of some that people from outside know better than those from inside. I’ve seen it happen in companies, churches, governments, non-profit organizations – you name it. External consultants may be needed when companies and organizations do not have the people resources to pool together enough experience and wisdom to tackle a project. But I think they are needed far less than they are actually used when there is a large employee or volunteer base.
As the community manager for my company’s internal social network, I am daily impressed with the wisdom, creativity, ingenuity, insight and capability of people at all levels of the organization. Their expertise goes far beyond the responsibilities of the roles they officially fill. Excellent ideas about how we can improve some process, product or service can come from anyone anywhere in the company. Those ideas are discussed by the larger group, tweaked as a result of the collaborative conversation, and turn into great insights and opportunities we would do well to implement.
I shudder to think how much money is wasted in companies around the globe where leadership is enamored with hiring external consultants at enormous fees when they have eager, willing employees who could together do at least as well as and probably better than the consultants if they were only asked. But you have to ask, and you have to trust.
That’s the beauty of social networks and social media. They give us the ability to tap the wisdom of a much larger network.
Please don’t overlook those near you as sources of ideas and solutions. Be mindful of leap year lesson #26 – External consultants are overrated – and trust the collective wisdom of your currently available network.