Project teams often partner with outside consultancies for a finite period of time, whether it’s to plan and execute a few specific projects or to work through challenges for the duration of a budget cycle. While that active time is important in the growth of the Project Team, savvy project teams should also be looking longer term as they work with their external expert.
The consultant may have been called in to focus on known issues. They might be tasked with identifying areas of waste or inefficiency, and correcting the practices that contribute to them. It’s possible their presence is needed to help neutralize internal political struggles or other organizational issues that are hindering progress. Many times, outside experts are brought in simply because the expertise to execute a complex or high-visibility project doesn’t exist in-house.
No matter the consultant’s primary mission, the project team should always leverage the near-term successes with an eye toward the future. By carefully crafting a longer-term strategy, the Project Team will be able to continue achieving better results even after the partnership with the outside expert has ended.
First, find opportunities for improvement. As the consultancy works with the team to set project parameters, develop action plans, and gather input and feedback from sponsors and other stakeholders, the Project Team should be diligently watching for areas of potential improvement. How does the consultant structure the communication flow? How are signs of impending scope creep addressed? Are vendor relationships managed differently? Is stakeholder engagement more robust?
Consider the challenges your team has encountered in the past and examine the practices employed by the outside expert to address them. Discuss with them the fundamentals of their methodology and work to incorporate those practices into the Project Team’s workflow. When obstacles arise later, the team will be better prepared to overcome them.
Next, consider near-term training options. While the consultant is actively working with your team, explore all opportunities that may exist for members of the Project Team to obtain real-time training on those issues and challenges the expert has been tasked with addressing. The organization’s PMP®s can then gather valuable insight into how problems are identified, how troubleshooting is carried out, and even how difficult sponsors can be effectively managed. By working alongside the consultant to brainstorm and implement solutions to issues, team members will gain valuable real-world knowledge under the guidance of an expert.
Also, see where future training may be available to expand competencies. Many outside experts offer training as part of their suite of services. Educational sessions don’t necessarily need to occur while the consultant is working on other priorities within the organization, but can instead be held after their other work has been completed. As the need for more advanced skills or new competencies arise, keep track so you can develop a more effective long-term training program. This often will include working with your external partner on courses targeted at your team’s specific needs. In addition, it’s a tool that can be used to create an in-house educational strategy to ensure the Project Team’s knowledge base continues to grow in a way that supports the organization’s broader mission.
Finally, analyze the team’s results. One competency an experienced external consultant brings is the ability to collect meaningful and accurate data, and to analyze that information to spot trends. Use this skill to your team’s advantage by working with your outside partner to measure the Project Team’s results both pre- and post-consultancy to compare performance. The project team can then use everything it has learned to continue eliminating waste and improving efficiency, thereby boosting its value to the organization over time.