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How to be an effective internal consultant
Improving Reliability and Maintenance from Within

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   by Stephen J. Thomas
Published By:
Industrial Press Inc.
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Clients are the internal consultant’s nourishment

You need them to survive and even more

to be able to grow


7.1 The Need for a Client


Imagine that, as the site’s internal consultant, you recognize that your organization needs an improved process to plan and execute outages of the major production lines within your plant. You have come to this conclusion by observing first hand the poor development of the work plan and execution of the work during the last outage. You recognize the severe problems that these deficiencies have caused such as failure to meet the scheduled completion date, overrunning the cost estimate, and completing the job without the expected level of quality. In response, you spend a great deal of time researching how others plan and execute the work, attending conferences, and talking with industry experts. You then develop a very comprehensive plan for conducting the work in a more effective and efficient manner. This process has proven to be a successful technique throughout industry; you are firmly convinced that it will do the same for your company.  


At the presentation of your recommendations, you are surprised. Although the managers appear to be listening, they don’t seem to have any real interest in implementing what you have developed. You leave the meeting discouraged; your presentation along with the improved work process ends up in your file. The next outage is as chaotic as those preceding it. Without a clear preplanned work process, the job is not completed on time and is over budget. Your plan would have altered this outcome. Something has happened that is detrimental to both you and the business. Now let’s consider the same scenario, but with a twist. In this case, when you recognized the need to develop a detailed work process for the major equipment outage, you discussed this with the maintenance manager, who assigned you the task to develop the process. An alternative to this could be that your managers recognized the need on their own and assigned you the task to develop the process. As a result, when you developed your recommendation and made your presentation to the manager’s staff, the process was accepted and implemented.  


There is a key difference between the scenarios. In the first, you did not have a client within the business unit who supported the work that was done. As a result, when it was presented, there was no buy-in by the organization and, hence, it was rejected. We have learned in earlier chapters that the internal consultant’s role is to support the work of those who are responsible and accountable for its execution. Although people in the internal consultant’s role may clearly see the business need for specific change initiatives, those initiatives will not be adopted unless the work is conducted at the request of a business client.

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