HR Manager's Bookshelf
Consultants and their clients: ROI, resources and more

By Ray Brillinger
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/02/2001

In the last issue, we reviewed several new books of interest to readers who want to know more about consulting. What is effective consulting? When and how can consultants be productively utilized? How does one become a successful internal or external consultant?

In this issue, we take a look at more titles covering a range of issue — from tracking results and the bottom-line impact of consulting projects, to organizations that have trouble converting knowledge into results, plus tools and resources for practitioners.

The Consultant’s Scorecard

By Jack Phillips, 400 pages (2000), McGraw-Hill. At bookstores or McGraw-Hill Canada, 1-800-565-5758, www.mcgrawhill.ca

There are two main intended audiences for The Consultant’s Scorecard: consultants who want to deliver demonstrated value, and clients who want to keep consultants accountable through a systematic measurement-based approach. This book complements Phillips’ other works including Accountability in Human Resource Management (1996) and Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs (1997), both published by Gulf and available from McGraw-Hill Canada.

In this new book, Phillips traces the shift from activity-based to results-based consulting. He attributes the increase in demand for consulting accountability to a number of forces: increased senior management interest, economic pressures, the rise in consulting expense and the sometimes diminished credibility of consultants tied to passing fads and failed interventions.

The “scorecard” offers a balanced perspective on the success of consulting projects, employing six areas of value or types of measures:

1. Reaction to, and satisfaction with, the consulting intervention, from different stakeholders over different time frames.

2. The extent of learning that has taken place: new skills, processes, procedures, etc.

3. The actual application and implementation of the consulting intervention: the use of the process in the work environment.

4. The actual business impact (hard and soft data) in the business unit where the intervention was initiated.

5. The actual return on investment reported as a ratio or percentage; ROI shows the monetary return on the cost of the project.

6. Intangible measures that cannot be readily or realistically converted to monetary values.

The focus on levels of measurement and ROI is set in the context of a process, starting with initial analysis and planning to identify the desired business results. Evaluation planning, data collection, data analysis and reporting — the major phases of consulting work — are mapped to the six sets of measures in a “consulting ROI” model.

Readers are guided through a systematic approach to capturing data and measuring relevant variables for each of the six measures.

Other key issues are tackled as well: separating the consulting impact from other factors in order to isolate the effects, converting business measures to monetary values, and monitoring the true costs of a consulting effort — including consultant fees and expenses, internal direct and indirect costs and supporting equipment and services.

The last section in the book addresses difficult challenges: building a business case for the consulting expense (forecasting ROI), providing feedback to the client and overcoming resistance and barriers to measuring consulting ROI.

To overcome the barriers, Phillips’ book takes aim at a long list of “ROI myths” both consultants and their clients may put forward as reasons not to bother trying. They include:

•ROI is too complex for most users;

•if senior management does not require ROI, there is no need to pursue it;

•ROI is not possible for soft-data projects — only for production and sales;

•it is not possible to isolate the influence of other factors; and

•ROI is for manufacturing and service organizations only.

Phillips’ thesis is that ROI data can transform the perception of consulting: “Consulting participants, their leaders, and other client staff will view consulting as a legitimate function in the organization that adds value to work units, departments, and divisions. They will have a better understanding of the connection between consulting and results.”

Moreover, consultants will discover they can develop an enhanced reputation and marketing power.

The Knowing-Doing Gap

By Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, 314 pages (2000), Harvard Business School Press. At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758, www.mcgrawhill.ca

Internal and external consultants and line managers alike are grappling with the problem: Why don’t we see the knowledge in our organizations translated into performance? What gets in the way?

Subtitled “How smart companies turn knowledge into action,” it builds on recent concepts like the learning organization, the importance of execution and recognition of strategic knowledge management.

Many readers will nod in recognition when they see chapter headings like:

•When knowing “what” to do is not enough.

•When memory is a substitute for thinking.

•When measurement obstructs good judgment.

•When internal competition turns friends into enemies.

Lessons and examples are drawn from numerous firms including British Petroleum, Barclays Global Investors, AES Corporation, SAS Institute, The Men’s Wearhouse and Saturn.

The authors, both Stanford professors, offer guidelines for turning knowledge into action, as well as key practices:

•leaders who know and do the work;

•value simplicity and avoid unnecessary complexity;

•use language that mobilizes action and followup on decisions; and

•reframe: from why it can’t be done to overcoming obstacles.

Related titles:

•Pfeffer’s previous book, The Human Equation (Harvard Business School Press, 1998) offers a critical examination of the people management practices prevalent in many of today’s companies — practices in hiring, pay, union relations, communication, motivation and so on. Success factors well recognized by management are often not followed. The book provides advice and examples of companies that treat people as assets, and everyone reaps the rewards.

•The Knowledge-Enabled Organization by Daniel Tobin (Amacom, 1998) shows how some companies in the U.S. and Canada are moving from a focus on traditional training to a dynamic focus on learning in connection with business needs. Read about fostering a positive learning environment, knowledge networks, new roles for the training group and learning contracts tied to business goals.

•Leif Edvinsson is viewed as a leading expert on intellectual capital, which he evaluates as a key component of the gap between the balance sheet and market valuation. He and co-author Michael Malone wrote Intellectual Capital (HarperBusiness, 1997) to explain IC measurement and its value to the corporation. Their survey covers several perspectives: financial, customer, process, renewal and development and human.

The 2000 Annual – vol. 1 Training and vol. 2 Consulting

Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer. At bookstores or available from Wiley Canada, 1-800-567-4797, www.wiley.com

These Annuals offer extensive resources for practitioners from leading experts in the field. Each volume contains about 30 entries under three headings — experiential learning activities; inventories, questionnaires and surveys; presentation and discussion resources.

Vol. 1 Training includes topics such as:

•improving decision-making in a political milieu;

•eliminating unproductive behaviour during performance reviews;

•aptitude for becoming a mentor;

•sexual harassment survey: exploring gender differences;

•how training departments can add value; and

•an overview of Web-based training.

Vol. 2 Consulting includes:

•telling the truth in organizations;

•exploring the dynamics of power in teams;

•diagnosing your organization’s ability to adapt to the future;

•breaking down boundaries, breaking through resistance;

•strategic planning made practical; and

•views of the 21st century organization.

The entries run from five to 15 pages and offer detailed materials and instructions for use. Materials may be reproduced for educational/training activities, as long as the source is acknowledged.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with the IBM Consulting Group. He provides change management, business transformation and organizational effectiveness services to client organizations. He can reached at (905) 316-4646 or raybrill@ca.ibm.com. His column appears regularly in Canadian HR Reporter.

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