My team took a consultant's report very personally and couldn't focus on improvement

In my corporate life we used consultants. I always felt they told me what I already knew but they provided authority and helped with politics. They were also expensive

When I started my business, I vowed not to use consultants but we didn’t have a lot of bandwidth and needed to do some process mapping of our logistics as we grew.

I decided not to use a firm and found a local person with an MBA who was a logistic specialist. I briefed her and she started her assignment.

She presented her report to our senior team. What she showed was that we weren’t communicating with one another and that the systems had big holes in them. We had too many manual interventions and the data entry was inaccurate.

My reaction was this was great as these were easy problems to fix. Dealing with these issues would improve productivity and customer service.

The reaction from our team was quite different. Team members started to blame one another and everyone was critical of the IT people. Tempers flared. I tried to calm everyone down and show them that this was good news as we could easily fix everything. It didn’t matter of who was at fault; it was an issue of growing pains that needed to be dealt with.

The fact that all of this became interpersonal was unsettling for me. I had a lot of work to do to bring this team together.

The MBA team consulting for us had a different agenda than ours

We felt lucky to have the help from an American business school. MBA students were scheduled to come see us in June. There was a lot of excitement around their arrival. They would stay for six weeks and work on key projects.

When they got here, for six weeks there was a ton of activity but none of it was really focused on the day-to-day running of the business. The CEO was always with the students, so we didn’t have much time with him during their stay. Priorities weren’t clear and critical decisions were postponed.

After three weeks, the students prepared an Interim Report and gave a presentation with a series of recommendations. From the first slide of their PowerPoint, my stomach started to knot up. Their recommendations were so sophisticated and conceptual that they were almost irrelevant to our company. Some failed to recognize the culture in which we operated and the way business was done here. Some relating to government engagement were simply naïve.

Right after the presentation I told the CEO and we needed to get control of their work and refocus it. At first he didn’t want to listen but then I other team members joined me so he had to act.

The first issue he wanted to address was how to manage the professor who was sponsoring the visit. He was the CEO’s informal mentor. He wanted the visit to support some research he was doing. We quickly realized there were conflicting agendas.