The motivation to call in a consultant arises because managers have identified a project that they think will benefit the organisation but they recognise that they are not in a position to deliver it themselves. The reason for their inability to deliver may be articulated in the form of resource or skill gaps. In entering to fill these gaps the consultant is offering to complement and develop the role profile in the organisation.
Supplementing involves the consultant adding to the existing skill profile to increase its capability. The consultant is an additional resource who takes on a project that could well have been taken on by an existing member of staff had time been available. This type of consulting role offers a way of enabling the business to manage demand fluctuations in a low risk way. The consultant allows the business to add and subtract human resources in a flexible way.
Complementing occurs when the organisation notices a gap in its profile of management roles and asks the consultant to fill that role. This may require the consultant to specialise in any of the basic role types; interpersonal role, informational role, decisional role.
A wide range of projects can involve the consultant complementing the informational role. Important examples might include market research and the setting up of management information systems.
The consultant can contribute to the decisional role in a variety of ways. Speculative business development projects, which explore a range of possibilities for the business in the future, complement the entrepreneurial role. A consultant may be called in as a disturbance handler to help the business’s management deal with a crisis.
The overall profile of management roles will depend on a number of factors. A small business will tend to have a leading entrepreneur undertaking the decisional and the spokesperson roles. They may also have the responsibility for the informational roles. As the business grows these roles will be passed to other individuals. This process of role differentiation is critical if the organisation is to grow successfully.
Consultants can help facilitate the process of role differentiation. At one level this involves designing appropriate organisation structures, defining managerial responsibilities and setting up communication systems.
Mature organisations are characterised by well-defined organisation structure and role responsibilities. These become established and are subject to organisational inertia. They may persist even when they are no longer relevant.
As with differentiating, the consultant can be called in to integrate roles into a new, more flexible structure.
Enhancing is the most general type of role development process. It demands not so much that the role profile of the organisation be changed but that the manager’s performance be improved. There are a variety of ways this may be achieved by a consultant. Training of individual managers is usually an important part. The training may be directed towards improving technical and functional skills or may develop interpersonal skills. Training may be supplemented through structural changes and attention to overall strategic understanding.