Collaboration is different from consulting

Indeed they are different; Most widely accepted definition of a consultant is an expert or a professional in a specific field and has a wide knowledge of the subject matter and one who provides advice in that field.

So by definition a consultant has very limited execution responsibility. However commercialization of the ‘Consulting Industry’ and intense competition has led to a situation where firms promise to own or share responsibility of execution. But in reality, they primarily role is to advise so things fall through the cracks as the engagement proceeds.

Due to their envious position as subject matter experts, consultants usually have an upper hand in their relationship with clients. Many times, this biased relationship is not very conducive for building trust and confidence between both the parties.

“The test of a good consultant is not whether he or she has generated a unique insight, but whether the insight can be applied to produce positive results. Consultants can’t just be smart; they have to be capable of delivering a business outcome” – The Economist

That is why consultants are usually criticized for the following:

  • Theorizing problems and making them difficult to comprehend
  • Heavy usage of Jargon!
  • Force problems into a ‘methodology’ they know
  • Attempt to make projects bigger or longer than they need to be
  • Produce an elaborate dossier called ‘Project Report’ that reiterates the problem

Not all consultants have such deficiencies, but it is very prevalent.

‘Collaboration’ on the other hand is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together intersection of common goals – for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature -by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Collaboration does not require directive leadership and can sometimes bring better results through decentralization and egalitarianism.

Traditionally, collaboration is widely popular among authors, academicians & researchers. These are fields where two or more experts with diverse and varied experience work together to towards a common goal. So ‘execution & result orientation’ is at the heart of collaboration. And unlike consulting, there is no role to just ‘advise’ and not own execution.

Good collaboration has the following elements:

  1. Tactical – Where one tells other teams members specifically what to do in his/her areas of expertise
  2. Tacit – Where one trains other members on how to handle issues/situations beyond technical stuff
  3. Co-delivery – Where one dirties his/her hands and work together with the team
  4. Partnership – Where one recognizes that they are not experts in all disciplines. Hence he/she partners with other experts in the team

There is no need to emphasis which one is better when it comes to ‘change management’. Collaborative style of change management is several notches above consultative style.

Known in short as Neil, Nilakantasrinivasan helps individuals and organizations to improve their performance, profitability and processes.

He is an expert in Operations Management, Customer Experience & Project Management.

Neil’s approach is not to prescribe any ‘methodology’. Instead he uses his experience with Hoshin Kanri, Balance Scorecard, LEAN, TQM, Six Sigma, Triz, Theory of Constraints, Knowledge Management, industrial engineering methods, ISO, PCMM, etc to deliver a composite solution that will resolve the pain points and improve profitability, productivity & process.

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