Project roles. We don't talk about them enough. Each team member contributes something different to a project, which is why we need a team. Sometimes we augment a team with vendors - especially when we need temporary help in an area. But what happens when you "outsource" your strategy?
Yes, you heard me. Outsource your strategy.
This is baffling because I wonder why someone would be an employee if he is outsourcing his company's strategy and basically, the business he works for? This mentality is great for slippery personalities who use this strategy to get promotions (and proclaim "Look at what I did," when in fact, a vendor did it) or to avoid being fired ("That crazy vendor did that!"). However, when you own the numbers - from metrics to revenue targets, know the inside details about the future vision of the company, understand your client needs and the relationship dynamics with them, understand your internal culture and politics, and a number of other decision making factors - HOW CAN YOU NOT OWN YOUR OWN STRATEGY?
But taking this one step further - why would a vendor take on a strategy project, where the vendor owns those decisions, without having access to this information and assume the risk of flying blind to run someone's business? And I have to ask the question - even if a vendor got this information, why not just convert to the "dark side" and be an employee?
Role of a vendor: The vendor is providing additional thinking to help the employee see different options. Sometimes an employee is so into the company "box" that he doesn't see it. It happens. And you need to hire someone to think outside of that box. You give that consultant numbers and data to be creative, and you pay for some new ideas.
Role of the employee: Give the consultant the data he needs and then make the final decision as to what will be successful.
When you ask the consultant to provide a strategy (hidden in a request to recommend options without the consultant knowing all of the facts), you are reducing your risk to almost zero but putting the consultant at GREAT risk because there is no way for a consultant to make 100% informed decisions or recommendations without knowing all of the internal factors. And if you keep putting a consultant at risk, your consultant will stop being your adviser.
This is something I see time and time again - and I don't fully blame the employee trying to get away with it; I also blame the consultant to accepts this type of work and doesn't set that boundary of where decision making lies. The roles and responsibilities for a project need to be clear up front. I know I have been in situations as a quasi-employee. However, when it came down to making a final decision for a direction - I stayed out of it. I just made sure the employee I was working with thought through all of the various perspectives for all solutions when he or she made the decision. At the end of the day - it really wasn't my decision(s) to make.
Ok...I'm off my soapbox now. Have a great Friday!