Why Change Management Consultants Are Key for Complex Initiatives

Why Change Management Consultants Are Key for Complex Initiatives: Illustration of paper airplanes with one highlighted airplane turning a new direction

Over the course of the past few years, business leaders have experienced a whiplash-inducing ride—from the screeching halt of early 2020 to the subsequent race to digitize, meet customers online, transform product offerings, and reconfigure supply chains. After a tough period for many companies, others were able to take advantage of new opportunities to prosper. The old adage “Change is the only constant” has never felt more real.  

Today, as business leaders continue to navigate uncertainty while battling cost pressures and undergoing initiatives to bolster security, efficiency, and innovation, their success depends on effective change management—and having the right resources in place to support it.

Humanity lies at the heart of leading change

Business transformation and organizational change initiatives are necessarily complex. They involve multiple projects running in parallel, multiple vendors and workflows, and, often, multiple consultancies, as well. And the risks are real: Only 26% of executives say their companies’ business transformation efforts succeed.

It can be tempting to blame failed efforts on poor strategy or insufficient technology, but the truth is more complicated—and human—in nature.

About 15 years ago, the now-ubiquitous DICE framework was first published in the Harvard Business Review. Developed by three partners at BCG, DICE is a quantifiable assessment tool that uses the most important aspects of change management to predict a transformation project’s success or failure.

Technology and strategy, while important tools, are entirely peripheral to the patented DICE analysis. An organization’s people are what directly inform three of the four factors:

  • Integrity: the ability of the project team, and specifically its leader, to execute
  • Commitment: on the part of both senior management and staff
  • Effort: the additional work that employees will have to perform in order to adapt

The fourth factor, Duration, relates to the timeline for the project, although couched within this is the frequency and thoroughness of project check-ins. So, it could be said that all four aspects are human at their core.

The problem is, the same humans responsible for these factors are often already overburdened. And depending on the type of transformation, they may or may not possess adequate experience or expertise to manage it. Even for companies with internal change management teams, the scope of the project can exceed the resources available.

This is where third-party support becomes invaluable. High-caliber independent talent can deliver deep knowledge in project-specific areas, from mergers and acquisitions to organizational development, and their involvement can be scaled up or down depending on the business’s needs. Classical training, combined with hands-on operating experience, allows change management consultants to provide objective insights and action plans that are free from the influence of company culture and internal politics.

Strategy is only the first step of many

Bringing in a big consulting firm—or several—to develop the strategic framework for a business transformation isn’t uncommon, especially for large, complex organizations. These firms excel at high-level strategy and roadmapping. Once that’s complete and the invoice is paid, however, that’s usually where their involvement ends.

Still left to do: execute the plan, manage the moving pieces, secure buy-in from stakeholders, support internal teams, maintain company culture, integrate new assets, and facilitate knowledge transfer once complete. Pretty much everything, and all while keeping day-to-day operations fully functional.

It’s no wonder the failure rate for transformation is so high: At the point when the big firms wrap up, the real nitty-gritty of the project hasn’t even begun. It’s also when we, at Business Talent Group, tend to get urgent requests for support. Our independent talent have stepped in on numerous complex initiatives not only to manage and facilitate transformation, but also to provide a trusted outside perspective on what will work and what won’t:

1. Executing the plan

When a Fortune 1000 retailer engaged multiple consulting firms to strategize its global transformation projects—ranging from inventory and procurement to merchandising and sourcing—the execution piece got a little unwieldy.

Global transformations can be messy, but they don’t have to be. The complexity of these types of initiatives requires a great deal of parallel processes and disparate vendors, making communication and organization the primary bulwarks of success. To ensure smooth implementation, the retailer’s CEO approached BTG to bring in an independent consultant.

We paired him with a former partner at Accenture who had decades of direct experience handling the firm’s global organizational change initiatives. Our talent understood the project’s multifaceted challenges and offered expert insight into the best ways to address them.

He took a hands-on approach to lead implementation and execution, ultimately streamlining workflows, keeping communication channels open and active, and ensuring that everything finished on time. His help was so instrumental to the initiatives’ success that the company retained his services to help establish a permanent project management office.

2. Managing the moving pieces

Independent consultants excel at both providing and facilitating agility, which makes them particularly well suited to fluid, fast-paced projects. When a global life science company needed to quickly relocate after a corporate split, it wasn’t as simple as packing everything into boxes and putting it on a truck.

There were 12 different workstreams to consider, spread out across four different offices nationwide. The company’s infrastructure and processes needed to be split, including office staffing, food service, and IT—and it needed to be done fast.

The head of business operations turned to BTG for support, and we had the ideal solution: a senior program manager who was trained at Accenture and CSC and had previously executed a similar split at a European life science company. As a highly capable, experienced consultant, he required little oversight in coordinating the transition. And when additional change management consultants joined the project, he helped coordinate their efforts, too.

3. Securing buy-in and supporting internal teams

An acquisition would seem to have the built-in benefit of suddenly swelling your human resources, but integrating your teams can be its own challenge. When a Fortune 500 tech company acquired a global data firm, it added 1,000 employees to its ranks. The existing team, however, was maxed-out on other projects, and the Director of Integration wasn’t confident they had the change management expertise to integrate the new team members effectively.

The change management consultant that BTG brought in started by getting buy-in from senior leadership and soliciting feedback from the newly acquired employees. As a former Arthur Andersen consultant, she was experienced with developing comprehensive change management plans. She knew that success depended on giving those affected by the acquisition the opportunity to be heard.

After strengthening key areas of communication, training, and standards, she developed and implemented processes for employee benchmarking and retention. By the time her engagement was complete, she had established an infrastructure that would continue to support the integration—and pave the way for more to come.

4. Preserving corporate culture

Mergers and acquisitions can also create challenges around cultural integration. Every company has its own culture, and even when two are closely aligned, slight mismatches can quickly become rifts if they aren’t addressed proactively. In some cases, particularly in larger organizations, the corporate culture is clearly defined, whereas in many others it evolves organically.

When an organization’s headcount suddenly increases by 50% due to an acquisition, as it did with one Fortune 500 hospitality giant, integrating the two company cultures is essential to maintaining stability. In this case, the in-house HR department wasn’t confident it could do this efficiently, so it turned to BTG.

BTG deployed an organizational consultant with operational expertise in HR growth. The consultant implemented an integration plan that helped onboard the new employees while preserving the existing corporate culture. Her organizational design efforts helped sustainably transform the entire HR department to accommodate the integration, all while streamlining new talent acquisition.

5. Integrating new assets

On-demand change management consultants have the benefit of being highly cost-effective, as well. A while back, the VP of business development at a F500 company approached BTG after a Big 3 firm had identified an acquisition target to support its growth strategy.

Before moving forward with the deal, he wanted to affordably assess whether integration of the two organizations’ systems was feasible. He also had concerns about his lean PMO’s ability to keep up should the acquisition proceed.

The experienced technology strategist we paired with the project helped evaluate both systems, create a high-level integration plan, and then execute on it. Additional consultants were brought in to manage the varied workstreams, scope resources and monitor progress. With the help of BTG’s on-demand talent, the organization was able to flex its team without a substantial increase in overhead. This, in turn, allowed internal resources to remain focused on revenue-generating responsibilities.

6. Facilitating knowledge transfer

What happens at the end of the project when the consultants leave and take essential project knowledge with them? Even the best-laid plans can fall apart upon crossing the finish line if there isn’t adequate infrastructure in place to support the business moving forward.

This is particularly important when there’s an internal team in place that needs to be confident executing on the plan long after external support leaves. This was exactly the case with a leading industrial company that was making a sizeable “carve-out acquisition” from a competitor.

The division’s EVP wanted to assess the potential risks of the acquisition—which is important, as up to 90% of M&A deals fail. But he also wanted to support his team. So, BTG deployed an experienced executive to act as a “private adviser” to the company’s head of acquisitions.

Thanks to BTG’s in-depth project scoping and end-to-end client success model, the consultant was able to help the team anticipate, assess, prioritize, and resolve issues, all while prioritizing knowledge transfer for ongoing success. After the deal was complete, he stayed on to help further support integration.

The right kind of support, right when you need it

In looking at the DICE model of predicting change management success, the value of flexible, on-demand support is clear. By bringing in change management consultants with direct experience in your specific niche, business function, or industry, you can ensure you have a strong team in place to drive and streamline implementation. This added support also helps reduce the burden of effort on your internal resources.

BTG consultants are highly experienced executives who have led similar initiatives in their own careers and enjoy the hands-on work of leading execution following a big strategy firm engagement. When you’re facing a big change, let us know and we’ll connect you with the right talent.


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About the Author

Emily Slayton

Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself (skeletonkeybrewery.com), she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth.

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