Seven Deadly Sins of a Change Management Consultant

Ever seen a change management consultant metaphorically making cookies from lemonade?

We all suffer from bleak and beige periods in our professional lives. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t had a holiday for a while, or because we haven’t been able to take a breath between jobs. But what if the change consultant you hired is going through one of these periods? What is the impact on your business transformation if you’re getting the auto-pilot instead of the real thinker?

Take care if some of these behaviours are familiar.


The change management consultant sees organisations as basically the same with the same problems.

The perception that all organisations are the same is true to the extent that all humans are basically the same and have the same problems. But when you visit a doctor, you do not accept a ‘generic’ treatment approach to how you are feeling, so why would you accept it from a change management consultant? It’s their role to listen to all of your symptoms as though they have never heard them before and assume nothing. Their agenda should be to help your organisation, rather than fix a problem.


The change management consultant enthusiastically reveals, “Oh, I’ve seen this before and what works best is…”

Repetition is similar to assumption, but goes one step further. The change management consultant, in this case, is an experienced campaigner, and is able to summarise issues quickly. That’s partly why you hired them. But what if they miss something because they’re busy hearing their own voice instead of yours? Try asking to see their toolkit before you engage them. Give them some typical change problems and ask them to describe solutions. A thoughtful change management consultant will consider their tools first, but will not solely rely on them to come up with solutions.


The change management consultant sees what they are working on as an opportunity for the future, rather than concentrating on the here and now.

There is nothing wrong with your change management consultant thinking ahead and imagining how to implement a solution for you. It can help them better understand the challenges you face as an organisation. However, if they only seem to recommend solutions that play to their strengths and involve future engagement, they may be jeopardising the quality of the job at hand. If they cannot focus properly on doing what they are currently engaged to do, they should probably not be hired to do anything for you again.


The change management consultant concentrates on developing strategies as a reaction to previous business transformation failures rather than building a new strategy based on a review of the complete raw data.

If you have hired a consultant to try and succeed where other projects have failed, they should not just use the post-mortem data to devise a ‘different’ strategy for you. They must still genuinely examine the conditions of the previous failure, assess the issues in the current circumstances and look at your company as having as a ‘new’ and unique problem (even if you don’t). If they just seem to react to the failures, then you’ll probably end up adding their solution to the failure pile.


Change management consultants try to please all of the people all the time.

It is almost always the case that when you consult on change, there are different opinions about what the change is about, what it needs to achieve and how to bring it about. The change management consultant job is not devising a solution that meets everyone’s expectations, it is to devise a real solution to a real problem you have. Of course there are stakeholder expectations to manage, but their goal should always be to help, not just to please.


“I know you’ve heard all this before, but….” the change management consultant sighs.

It is one thing to experience change fatigue in your organisation, but it is quite another to have a consultant add their own fatigue into the mix. They may think they are winning people over by empathising with the situation, but they are actually reinforcing a cynical attitude and failing in their obligation to help your company. You have brought them in to offer insights into issues, contribute new energy and demonstrate care for the organisation. They need to understand where negativity comes from, but should not empathise with it.


The change management consultant sees the business landscape is just various shades of white and beige.

Assumptions can lead to a situation where a consultant can no longer discern variations in an organisation’s landscape. They cannot see the unique people, patterns, textures and shadowy corners that hide the real meaning and the real solution for your business. All they are doing is trudging through endless fluorescent lit corridors, past fake plants and talking with cliché characters. They cannot help you effectively if they cannot even see you.


A change management consultant who displays all these sins at once would be a disaster, but even displaying one of them can have a negative impact on you. When engaging a consultant, be sure to ask them how they avoid these sins. Their answers should tell you if they are due for a holiday or not.

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