The Business Case
We know that
internal consulting is needed
case, if done correctly,
proves it to the
4.1 Why Is a Business Case Needed?
Most companies have internal consultants, except they
often do not call them by this name. The label often given people who hold
these positions is engineering or reliability staff—people who work in other
departments outside of maintenance whose role it is to provide support to those
doing the work. If the role is filled from within the reliability / maintenance
organization, either on a full or part-time basis, these people are often
described as simply handling special projects. The projects can be of either
short- or long-term duration.
In each case, these people provide the services
that we have been describing as those delivered by an internal consultant. The
problem is that these individuals do not have the correct label assigned to
their role. As a result, the incumbents often find it difficult to work in the
role to which they have actually been assigned. What is needed is a way to
validate the position of internal consultant, then fill the position with an
individual or group whose sole job it is to perform this service for the
organization. Years ago I was working as a lead engineer for a section of the
plant. This job was not one that I really wanted; I had landed in this role as
the result of a company-wide layoff. My options were lead engineer or seek work
with another company. The reason I mention this was that this position was not
something that needed my full-time attention due to the fact that the
engineering was actually being handled by my staff. My role was one of
coordination and it was not fully time consuming.
As a result, I began having discussions with a good
friend of mine who at the time was the manager of the Maintenance organization.
Over the prior three years, he had become increasingly unhappy with the current
maintenance work process. He had decided to redesign the work flow, the
organizational structure, and many of the other components that were required
for a successful, reliability-focused maintenance effort. With time on my
hands, I agreed to help facilitate the effort. In addition to my experience in
the maintenance arena, I was also able to deliver something else that was even
more important. I did not have any line responsibilities. As a result, I was
able to focus my efforts on the redesign initiative. As I was engaged in this
initiative—which took over six months to complete—something was happening to me
that I had not yet identified. I was becoming an internal consultant for the
After a great deal of effort on the part of many
people within the organization, we developed and deployed an entirely new way
of conducting maintenance within the plant. At the same time, the plant was
also going through a total reorganization of which the maintenance organization
was a part. The maintenance manager created a position reporting directly to
him identified as Special Projects Coordinator; I was assigned to this
newly-created role. In the back of both of our minds, we recognized that having
someone who could detach himself from the day-to-day tactical work of the
organization and work strategic (special) projects had the potential of
providing immense value to the organization. Still we had not identified this
as an internal consultant position.
Over the next several years, I worked for the
maintenance manager in this role. The problem that I had was that all of my
assignments originated with him. While I did offer my services to others, they
did not fully understand what I was capable of delivering. Nor did they see the
value that I could deliver in a special project role.
For line organizations that are focused on reactive
maintenance, which mine was, this failure to recognize value from strategic
work initiatives delivered by someone focused in this area is not uncommon.
Strategic work is something that they do when they have some spare time, which
never seems to happen. Their focus is on the day-to-day; focusing on
longer-term initiatives is not what they get rewarded for doing.
After the maintenance manager retired, I worked for
several other managers who saw the value in what I was doing. As a result, I
was allowed to keep working in my special projects role. Then something very
interesting happened. In a move to further reorganize the department, I was
asked if I could use some help handling the many initiatives that my managers
had assigned me. Thus the organization grew from one to two people. This
happened several times over the next few years and slowly I acquired an
organization of people working on plant-wide strategic initiatives. At the same
time, the organization itself evolved into one that placed a much higher value
on reliability. This new direction supported the work my team was doing.
Eventually my small organization was recognized as delivering strategic value
and it was sought out to support the reliability / maintenance organization as
well as others.
The reason that I have related this story is that
my journey from part-time special projects coordinator to one where my team
acted as reliability/maintenance internal consultants—even though we were not
named as such—was due to fortunate timing and a lot of luck.
Placing people with strong internal consultant
skills within the reliability/maintenance organization in order to support the
development and implementation of strategic initiatives should not be left to
chance. There needs to be a better way, a process that identifies the need for
such a position and then goes about the task of justifying it. If this is
handled correctly, then the individual or group appointed to these positions
will have 1) a clear mandate from the site management, 2) recognition by the
site personnel of their role within the scheme of plant operations, and 3)
identification of the individual or group as internal consultants for the
plant. This is clearly a better way to reach internal consultant status than
banking success on timing and luck. The question is: How can this be
accomplished? The answer is that a clear business case must be developed,
submitted, and approved by site management, thereby sanctioning the role.