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No More Consultants: We know more than we think

ISBN: 978-0-470-74603-5
252 pages
October 2009
No More Consultants: We know more than we think (0470746033) cover image
We have all smiled at the apocryphal tale of the consultant who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then walks off with your watch! Deep down, we all know that there is an element of truth in the story.

If we only recognised and released the capabilities which we had on the inside, our organisations could be so much more efficient, effective and purposeful with the money they spend on consultants.

No More Consultants provides readers with everything they needed to tap into those capabilities. Using the tools and techniques in this book, readers will be able to drill deep inside their organizations to realise the value of their existing knowledge. Employees will feel valued and listened-to, and investment on consultants can be reduced or redirected to the places where there is a genuine need to build new capability.

  • The book is rich with real-life examples of application. At its core is the self-assessment process which has been applied to a variety of issues, including: supply chain management, business improvement, learning and development, operational excellence, knowledge management, and the worldwide response to AIDS.
  • By applying the innovative ‘River Diagram’ to the results of the self assessment, you can clearly map-out where the strengths and weaknesses in your organisations lie, and where there is scope for sharing.
  • This map will help you plot the course of your improvement strategy. No More Consultants contains several practical techniques designed to close the gap between the lowest and highest performers, saving your business time and money.
  • Illustrated using an exciting collection of stories and examples: including BP, Oracle, United Nations, the NHS and Nationwide Building Society

"You cannot approach a book called No More Consultants without being affected by the title. Whether you are punching the air shouting ’about time’ or whether you are muttering to yourself ‘we consultants are having a tough enough time already’, you will have a view. But you’ll soon realise that No More Consultants is not about some mass cull. It is about organisations clarifying what they are looking to achieve, accessing the resident knowledge and capabilities, and learning from within before looking for outside advice.

I came to this book knowing about the techniques and having used them. I can attest to their value. What I was less sure about was whether you can learn all this from a book – or whether, ironically, you might need to employ a consultant. There is no doubt that No More Consultants is accessible. The style is easy and the concepts well explained. I particularly like the metaphors, the step-by-step guide and the mix of real case stories. It carries its sophisticated thinking with a certain lightness that will surely appeal to busy managers reading it on the train. I suspect that seasoned knowledge managers and change facilitators will be fired up enough to have a go themselves. But there will be many more who will want a bit of help to get them started.

So what are these techniques? Firstly, take any function or challenge in your organisation. Now create a framework that defines the key components of success that are graduated on a scale ready for self assessment. Engage with the key players to determine where you are now and where you want to be. Compare with what others are doing in your organisation so that they can share their success with you and vice versa. Work out how to continuously improve.

My favourite stories in the book involve developing a knowledge culture in the NHS and the sharing of expertise on organic rice farming in Thailand. The former reveals the energy that can be released, which is what breathes life into any initiative, and that what may seem like mechanistic tools on paper are actually about human learning as well as organisational improvement. The latter illustrates that knowledge sharing is just as crucial in a community setting as it is in a large corporation looking to drive up its margins.

The secret in these techniques – with curious names like River and Stairs Diagrams – is the powerful combination of structured, systematic thinking with a carefully nuanced understanding of how people and organisations actually work. The most potent persuader, which is perhaps underplayed a little, is that these techniques can help you save money as well as spreading good practice around the organisation. The main investment is time, but the potential cash returns, if that is what you are seeking, are there to be had. Not just by employing less consultants, but also through sharing lessons learnt around efficiency savings.

The authors used to work for BP so they may not like me citing an ex-Shell manager, Arie de Geus. His mantra was that learning is the only sustainable source of competitive advantage. This book shows you how. And if, like me, you work in the public sector, you’ll know that we often succumb to the consultant knows best disease. No More Consultants could be the antidote you have been seeking."
Graham O’Connell, Head of Organisational Learning & Standards, National School of Government

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Foreword.

Preface.

1 Introduction - Why No More Consultants?

Five Key Questions.

How to Read No More Consultants.

Chapter by Chapter.

2 Discovering the River.

Forming the River.

Beating Consultants at Their Own Game.

Spotting the Potential for Learning and Sharing.

Examining the Distribution of Performance.

Watching the River Over Time.

3 Building the Framework.

Deciding Who to Involve.

Identifying and Selecting the Practices.

Deciding the Variables.

Defining the Levels.

Developing our ‘Effective Meetings’ Example.

Story 1 – Using Self-assessment to Unite a Consortium of Companies.

Story 2 – Helping UK Government Departments to Develop and Learn.

The Benefits of Global Rather than Local Frameworks.

Defining the Strategy.

4 Applying the Approach.

It’s All About the Conversations.

Involving the Procrastinators.

The Environment.

Story 3 – Responding to AIDS in Brazil.

Sharing Experience Within a Framework.

It is Subjective, and De-personalises the Emotion.

It Challenges Our Assumptions.

The Focus for Improvement.

Finding Ways to Close the Gap in Performance.

Story 4 – Developing Professional Communities in Oracle.

Story 5 – Assessing Knowledge Management in UK Regional Government Offices.

Story 6 – Linking the Supply Chain.

Launching and Going to Scale.

5 The Role of the Facilitator.

What Are the Attributes of a Good Facilitator?

What Does a Facilitator Do?

6 Creating the River.

Constructing the River Diagram on Paper.

Innovative and Practical Ways to Visualise a River Diagram.

Creating the Stairs Diagram.

Story 7 – Developing a Knowledge Culture in the National Health Service.

7 Learning from Experience.

Offers and Requests.

Learning from Experience Through a Peer Assist.

Story 8 – Organic Rice Farming in Thailand.

Story 9 – Peers in Unexpected Places – When Great Ormond Street Hospital Met Ferrari!

Barriers to Sharing.

Tall Poppy Syndrome.

Shrinking Violet Syndrome.

Not Invented Here Syndrome.

Real Men Don’t Ask for Directions.

8 Improving and Sustaining.

Measuring Progress.

Leading and Lagging Indicators.

Modifying the Framework.

Local Customisation.

External Benchmarking – Towards Level Six.

Story 10 – The Sustainable Development of Cities.

9 So What Do We Do Now?

Appendices.

Appendix A Self-Assessment Framework for Effective Meetings.

Appendix B Learning and Development Self-Assessment Framework.

Appendix C Creating a River Diagram with Excel.

Appendix D Knowledge and Organisation Development in the NHS.

Further Reading.

Index.

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Geoff Parcell is a successful business coach. He has worked with organizations in the private and public sectors to identify and build their capabilities, stressing team working and learning. He was a founder member of BP’s knowledge management team, and has also worked with the UN on sharing good practice in the response to HIV/AIDS.
With Chris Collison, he was previously author of the acclaimed Learning to Fly (Wiley 2004).
Find out more at www.practicalKM.com.

Chris Collison is a leading business adviser, author and speaker. After 15 years working on knowledge and change management with BP and Centrica, Chris now helps a range of organizations to improve and innovate – from software engineers in Bangalore, to venture capitalists in Rome, biotechnologists in North Carolina and NHS hospitals in the UK.
He is an associate and visiting lecturer at Henley Management College and Cranfield School of Management, and is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD.
See www.chriscollison.com for more information.

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·         An innovative and practical guide for business practitioners showing how to mine the existing knowledge of the organization without the need for consultants

·         Demonstrates a unique tool called The River Diagram to apply this theory

·         Saves businesses time and money by reducing the need for external help

·         Illustrated using an exciting range of case studies including BP, Oracle, UNAIDS, the NHS and Nationwide Building Society

 

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"…an easy read, taking you step by step through an approach to identifying strengths within your business." (Supply Management, March 2010)
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