Protect and Promote your Practice

I worked this week with a great group of HR people in building and shaping process maps for the future of our HR function. They have the vision to see many places where centralization and technology can streamline services, reduce costs, empower employees and make the organization more responsive to employee needs overall.

The problem is there are not resources readily available to make that vision a reality. Given the current economic climate, who knows when they will be again? A year? Two? More? How many of the current team will be around to see the change?

I’ve already heard of companies cutting heads, and sometimes the Lean people go early because they are “overhead” or a “cost center” instead of a profit center. I contend this is our own fault for not positioning ourselves right in the organization.

I met a couple of OD consultants for the Navy (civilians, I should note) who treated their internal practice as a consultancy. After securing backing for two years from their champion in advance, they moved from part of the “overhead” to a service that no one pays for indirectly. They spent those two years building their business, quoting jobs for their internal customers and delivering as if their next contract depended on it. (It did, by the way.)

After less than a year, they were being inundated with requests for their time. (I should also note this was not a new group, just a new approach. They had problems getting traction earlier because they were seen as overhead, and it tainted how the front line managers dealt with them.) They became self sufficient in 9 months. They “repaid” their seed money from the “profits” of their practice, after covering their salaries, benefits, training, conference costs, materials, marketing, etc.

What was the difference? Very little, really. But the perception of the customer base had changed. Their approach to work had changed. They set expectations early in the process and beat their targets. They owned their business and treated their co-workers as their customers. Which they are.

So, how’s your practice doing these days? Secure? Or is there a chance you will be swept out with the other consultants who haven’t made themselves indispensable?

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