Claire Abbott

Change Management: The "In-crowd" vs the "out-crowd"

The world is waiting with bated breath to see if this volcano, that is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, erupts and leaves us facing the ash cloud of change. The reality is this volcano is already bubbling, slowly displaying its hot magma breath, providing us with hints that we need to change or face the consequences. With organisations realising this fact, they feel the compelling need to embed a change culture that will ensure employees’ ability to adapt to market forces that may not necessarily be within their control.

We are moving and we are moving fast!

With an increasing need for internal change management offices to be established, how can we as change consultants ensure future success and sustenance for our organisation/client? A solution might lie in both the internal and external change consultant "taking up arms" together and facing this eruption as one fraternity.

In and Out

Change Management: The "In-crowd" vs the "out-crowd" Informatics

1. What is the difference between internal versus external consultants?

The Internal Change Consultant:

According to Prosci – Enterprise Change Management, an internal consultant (IC) is an individual/group which serves internal clients in an advisory capacity. This individual Is placed within the corporate structure supporting internal clients in implementing solutions and improving the organisation's performance.

The External Change Consultant:

An external consultant is someone external to the organisation who can be contracted to conduct Change Management activities for a certain period or project.

2. When to choose which?

There is no doubt that both the internal and external consultants bring their own invaluable experience to the organisation. Weighing in on either of the advantages and disadvantages, unfortunately, does not provide the organisation with a quick solution in terms of choosing a singular approach for future change initiatives. Rather, this would depend on various factors such as organisational types, company culture, the size of the change initiative, the scale of the change initiative, etc ...

As an organisation the following key contributors may influence whether to choose an internal or external consultant:

2.1. Budget:

Dependent on available budget, an organisation may choose to only include their internal change consultants to serve as advisories within the change management field, or they may choose to bring on external resources to assist in the initiative.

2.2. Size of the organization/ change initiative:

The impacted population size of the change initiative will influence the number of change resources needed to manage the change.

2.3. The scale of the change:

Different scales of change require different demands, this may result in possible inclusion of more resources or additional expertise.

2.4. The company culture:

Understanding the company’s cultures regarding the hiring of consultants will either inhibit or permit teams in ensuring the inclusion of the right resources.

2.5. Current status of the project:

Dependent on the status of the project, it can be determined if an external resource is required at all. This aligns to the point below, understanding the objective/role of the change consultant.

2.6. The objective/role of the change consultant throughout the duration of the change initiative:

Understanding the objective of the change consultant will influence whether organisations may use an external/internal consultant.

Some advantages and disadvantages of each group are shared in the table below:

  Internal Consultant External Consultant
  • They have a greater understanding of the organisational intricacies, history and political stances.
  • Input from start to finish and post implementation. Providing valuable insight as lessons learned, in turn making the organisation more efficient.
  • The organisation serves as an internal consultants only form of interest allowing for a resource to be readily available, on demand.
  • Organisational relationships and trust already exist.
  • High levels of objectivity allow for external consultants to apply best practice solutions that may have worked in previous organisations.
  • Increased leverage as a result of being invited by the organisation.
  • Sole interest in attaining contracted deliverables for the organisation, no day to day interferences.
  • A broader base of experience may result in being perceived as more credible.
  • Understanding the organisations politics and nuances may deter the consultant from being truly objective, being unable to raise concerns or issues as and when necessary.
  • Internal consultants can become complacent in their approach.
  • Limited insight into the organisation's culture, putting them on the back foot.
  • Organisations are dubious of external consultants as they may feel External Consultants are not willing to understand the company’s intricacies and nuances.

In their article, "Inside or Outside: Internal and External Consultant", Beverly Scott and Jane Hascall list the following points to guide organisations in allocating the right resource according to their needs.

Use external consultants when: Use internal consultants when:
To support the development of strategy or facilitate corporate-wide initiatives or key priorities To support the implementation of strategic priority, or intervention as an operational focus
Do not have internal expertise Have the internal expertise
Deep expertise is needed Broad generalist knowledge is needed
An outside, neutral perspective is important Knowledge of the organisation and business is critical
New, risky alternatives need validation from an outside expert Speaking the jargon or the language of the organization and the culture is important
Internal does not have status, power or authority to influence senior management or the culture A sensitive insider who knows the issues is needed
CEO, President or senior leaders need coach, guide or objective sounding board eed to sustain a long-term initiative where internal ownership is important
Initiative justifies the expense Cost is a factor
The project has defined boundaries or limits Follow-up and quick access is needed

Following a hybrid approach may serve as more beneficial in the long run for organisations. Maximising the advantages of both parties may allow for a seamless transition with any change initiative.

3. Why build internal capabilities at all?

It is no secret that organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that change management serves as beneficial within the organisation. The value of change management has been proven and organisations are taking heed. As stated above, with our volcano eruption looming, one cannot help but recognise the fast pace of change that is omnipresent.

Not only do organisations need to gear up to handle the pace of change but they need to prepare themselves for a very different working world. A world that is blurring the lines between physical, digital and biological spheres, as so introduced by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum.

By upskilling individuals in change management, not only is the company’s skills pool improved but a culture of quick adaptability is instituted with the remainder of employees. Embedding this type of culture will warrant an organizations future success. Internal consultants can start exploring this new way of work and start desensitising the organisation, making sure employees are adequately prepared for any change the organisation may face.

The question then is once internal consultants attain these skills and organisations become more agile, is there still a place for external consultants to serve a role?

I believe so.

External consultants can continue assisting organisations during change initiatives, but I believe that as the world changes it will become more of a collaborative approach along with the internal change management office (CMO). External consultants possess a great overview in terms of best practice, seeing as they have been exposed to various organisations and have come to learn what works and what works well. Having this insight will still serve as beneficial in the future. Along with providing consulting/advisory assistance, external consultants can act as a knowledge transfer for companies looking to upskill their current CMO.

4. In closing:

Our world is ever-changing, and the pace of change is about to increase with the unknown that is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Employees and organisations alike, need to become increasingly agile. Stealthily manoeuvring themselves with ease through various changes and ensuring future success.

Both the internal and external consultants have pivotal roles to play in assisting both the organizations and the employees. Maybe now more of a critical role than that of the past, considering the pace of the change. By pulling together as a change fraternity, external and internal consultants can leverage off each other, ensuring the organisation is geared up and ready to face this "volcano" on the verge of eruption.

I leave you with a quote to provide you with motivation as we face the unknown but ever so exciting future:

"If we have the courage to take collective responsibility for the changes underway, and the ability to work together to raise awareness and shape new narratives, we can embark on restructuring our economic, social and political systems to take full advantage of emerging technologies."
- Martin Nowak, a professor of mathematics and biology at Harvard University

Let this amazing volcano erupt!