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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Case Studies of Client Behavior

I have focused on sharing examples of consultant issues and behavior. However, the employees of the hiring firm can have a vital influence on cost. How the employee responds to and works with the consultants can have a direct effect on the consultants' productivity. Because the consultants' time is expensive, the hiring firm should clearly communicate to its employees regarding the importance of responsiveness to the consultants. Please keep this in mind as you review the following case studies. Additionally, you will probably know your existing employee behavior patterns before consultants arrive on the project. Try to head off problems in advance where reasonably possible.

Case Study: The "I Can Figure It Out" Employee

Some employees might resent the fact that a high-dollar consultant is being brought into the project. These employees might strongly feel that they are capable of accomplishing everything the consultant can. Of course, if the consultant does not have extensive experience, the employees might have a point. However, it is the employees' attitude toward the project that can become detrimental.

Sometimes an employee's resentment will become a measure of pride. The employee might spend extra time trying to solve certain problems without seeking help from the consultants. The employee avoids seeking help so as not to be perceived as inferior to the consultant. This is quite inefficient in two ways. First, the consultant might have some direct experience with specific problems that the employee is trying to solve. Second, the cohesiveness of the team suffers because various team members are not working together for the common good of the project.

The fact that certain employees want to solve problems themselves is a good quality. This is a much better situation than an employee who refuses to contribute anything productive. The problem is when the employee does not want to use the best available tools (in this case the availability of an experienced consultant) to help achieve success.

Case Study: "Don't Ask Me, You're the Expert"

This type of behavior in certain employees is quite similar to the issue with the "I can figure it out" employee. The root of this problem is generally resentment.

This employee would relish the opportunity to publicly demonstrate his worth. This employee is quite pleased when the consultant seeks his advice on a particular solution. Occasionally, an employee will respond to the consultant, "Don't ask me. You're the expert." A similar response might be, "I thought we were paying you the big bucks to know this stuff." There is clear resentment in this situation.

A good consultant in this situation will ignore her own pride. You will never win this employee's trust with a fight.

Case Study: The "It's Not My Job" Employee

A project implementation can be quite grueling. Many unexpected challenges can arise. The client needs a hard-working project team that can be flexible. Sometimes a new item of work is identified that really does not seem to fall in anybody's specific project plan. Here is a good time to have a consultant who will roll up his sleeves and not be afraid to get his hands dirty.

If you identify a consultant with this type of behavior, you do not have a team player who is looking after your best interests. More often, this type of behavior is observed of the end client themselves, not by the consultants. Sometimes this is a corporate squabble between different departments. No one wants to take responsibility, and everyone else is always the bad guy. If you fall into this category, please give us all a break and lend a helping hand.

Case Study: The Sniper Employee

The sniper employee is the person who is always looking for something wrong. This employee has characteristics similar to those described in the previous two sections, but this employee is a bigger problem and can be destructive to the project. The sniper makes special effort to undermine the efforts of employees and consultants alike on the implementation. His criticism is clearly not intended to be constructive. Years ago, we worked for a client who assigned to a large project team several employees who would lose their jobs when the implementation finished. The project did finish eventually, but that client spent an extra $300,000 caused by snipers.

If management keeps a hands-on approach to the project, this type of employee will be easily identifiable. This employee is not subtle about his opinions and is on a mission. If your project is forced to depend on information that requires interaction with the sniper, start your efforts as early as possible. This employee will find every excuse in the book as to why he cannot produce the necessary and complete information in a timely fashion.

Case Study: "I'm Too Busy (It's Month-End Close, You Know)"

Many employees can fall into this category during the course of project implementation. These employees are usually required to work full-time on both the project implementation and on their existing jobs. Consultants can become quite unproductive and cost the company money when information is needed that only these employees can provide.

This employee always seems to be too busy. Sometimes, there are legitimate excuses, such as operational requirements for month-end close or for employee new hires. However, as the project progresses, you can determine whether this same employee always seems to have a scheduling conflict or other crisis.

This situation should be viewed as more of a management issue. It is quite likely that the employee is genuinely overloaded with her normal full-time duties. It is also possible that the employee does not have full appreciation for the priority of the ERP implementation project. If the client's management is involved in the project, they should communicate priorities to the employees. Management might need to reshuffle other employees' work assignments to offload the overloaded employee.

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