Expert guidance from someone outside of the company is vital in providing you with the feedback and the context you will require to pull this initiative off. This process is about culture change. If you've been with the company for more than six months, you have become a part of that culture and you can't look at it with a critically neutral eye. Your cultural blinders make it impossible for you to carry out the planning, research, and execution entirely from within the organization.
And, regardless of whether the perception is accurate or not, most companies view only outsiders as experts. They may have hired you because you were the best of the best, but once you are on staff, you automatically lose some of your credibility. You cannot be a prophet in your own land. Adding an outside expert to the team will back up your research and personal suggestions and reestablish your authority in the eyes of your superiors.
That doesn't mean you should hand the project over to a consultancy. This is your mission, your baby ”just don't be too proud to ask for help. Selective outside perspective from an organizational-development specialist will help you avoid costly errors and give you someone to rely on when you feel the culture turning against you.
The team members from The Performance Engineering Group (PEG) were key players in the success of this project. Many areas of the project were either completed by PEG consultants or they were significant contributors along with members of the Rockwell Collins learning and development team:
PEG designed, delivered, and analyzed the employee surveys. Writing a questionnaire may seem like a simple process, but unless you know how to phrase the questions and how to analyze and use the resulting data, your efforts could actually do damage to your project. Sending out employee surveys is the same as making a promise to people. It tells them you are interested in hearing their opinions and it sets their expectations for change. If you don't have the skills to interpret and react to your survey data, you will in essence break a promise to those people and establish yourself as unreliable early on.
Developing surveys internally also increases the likelihood you won't ask the right questions, avoiding those topics that are too sensitive to mention. And even if you manage to get those questions in, expecting people to answer honestly when they know the completed surveys are being delivered to someone within the organization is na ve. A surveying expert won't avoid the tough questions and will provide the neutrality and anonymity necessary to get candid feedback.
PEG conducted research and built the foundation of the strategic plan. They did much of the research and ultimate analysis of the data we collected and worked with us to pull it all together.
PEG had a large role in the development of the business plan. An outsider's opinion of your business case will ensure that your information, language, and tone are relevant. Use your consultant to practice your pitch and incorporate his or her feedback into your final presentation. We had the consultants work closely with us as we wrote the business plan. They developed many of the metrics we used in the business plan and helped us make sure our data was provable and accurate. We also relied heavily on Rockwell Collins's finance group to substantiate our metrics.
PEG evaluated the needs of external offices. We sent these consultants out to various Rockwell Collins locations to help evaluate needs and identify any issues that could impede implementation. On a number of occasions they traveled to remote Rockwell Collins facilities to perform diagnostic work or simply to obtain recommendations for fixing what was broken. They often served as our proxies when there were major time constraints and our own staff was already being stretched thin.
PEG developed and facilitated the learning councils along with designated learning consultants. While the functional learning councils didn't achieve their intended goals, our team learned a great deal from them while they became effective promoters of Project Oasis. We couldn't have achieved what we did with the learning councils without the help of our consultants.
PEG assessed our current staff. Taking a cold, hard look at your own team members and evaluating their ability to succeed in this environment can be a painful and delicate process. An outsider may be more honest, and if a team member needs to be let go, a consultant can be a valuable "bad guy" to take responsibility for the decision.
While Purington didn't let anyone go, PEG provided valuable perspective on the skills and gaps in the original group and did most of the training to get them up to speed. They helped ease the transition from team members' prior jobs to that of learning consultants. In some cases that meant the learning consultants had to learn entirely new sets of job skills. PEG administered various assessment tools and provided each of the team members with specific feedback, both from the assessment tools and from their personal observations. Then they worked with every team member to come up with a first-rate development plan. They continue to coach and support team members to keep their skills fresh and build on their existing talents.
Perhaps one of the greatest contributions these consultants made was the development of the business plan to support the concept of QuickLearns. When we couldn't find a vendor to produce this innovative learning technology, PEG was willing to take the risks required to fulfill this critical business need. They had to commit a significant capital expenditure to produce the first QuickLearn module. They were willing to do this because they had faith in the strategic plan and a willingness to think beyond quick profits. They had put as much effort into this initiative as the inside team had.
The intention of sharing these contributions is not to promote PEG but to emphasize how valuable top- notch consulting help can be to a project. A good consultant relationship can save you far more money than it will cost you. Even today, with our processes in place and running smoothly, hardly a week goes by when we don't communicate with the consultants. They continue to serve as a sounding board, reality check, and sanity check.
Find a firm you trust and that you can work with. You need someone who is "on your side" but still willing to tell you when you are wrong or point out the faults in your logic.
Make sure your consultants don't think they have all the answers and also make sure they can work effectively with your staff. After all, if you select the right firm, they'll be with you for some time.