You know you need to implement a management system be it ISO 9001 for quality, ISO 14001 for the environment, AS 4801 for safety, ISO 50001 for energy, or a combination of these. You’ve decided that it’s too hard/time consuming/risky to do it yourself. You need a consultant. They have to be experienced, highly effective and hold a successful track record. It’s an important decision, one you can’t afford to get wrong. You need someone who’ll ensure project success. Someone who will focus on your specific needs and generate real benefits for your business. So how do you go about finding the right person for the job?
1. Never Buy a System Off-The-Shelf
The role of a management system is simple – it should communicate how you want your business to be run. Off the shelf systems communicate how some imaginary, generic WXZ Company is run and they usually contain five times as much documentation as you need because they try to cover all contingencies. Off-the-shelf systems are cheap to buy but expensive to maintain because instead of the management system supporting your business goals, you’ll end up supporting it. In fact, you’ll spend so much time and money on maintaining your management system that you’ll feel like the system is on life support.
2. Don’t Hire a Consultant Who Can’t Integrate with the Team
Documenting the management system is the easy part. Implementing it is the hard bit and if it isn’t well implemented then it isn’t going to work. Your consultant must be able to work with your team to gain their commitment. They must be able to translate the Standards into words that are meaningful for your employees. They must be able to demonstrate a return on investment to senior managers and business owners.
3. Don’t Hire a Consultant Who Hasn’t Got a Team
While you always want to find the best consultant to meet your needs, it is important to look at the consulting business as well. Having a strong team behind your consultant can make the world of difference on difficult projects. Even on easy projects it helps if the consultant has assistance with doing things like background research.
4. Create a Project Outline
The best way to be clear about your needs is to have it straight in your head. Write a project brief:
- Describe objectives, requirements, deliverables and scope
- Define the key concepts that must be understood
- Establish milestones & deadlines
- List your available resources
- List the experience and skills the consultant should have.
- Obtain key stakeholder input and buy-in. It’s easier to get people on the bus by involving them early than it is once the bus is in motion. A Consultant provides the toolset – it’s the commitment of management that ensures project success over the short and long term.
5. Conduct a Pre-assessment Over the Phone
Obtain a name/contact email, email the project brief and set up a phone meeting. Use project brief as a discussion starter and make it clear that you want to have an intelligent discussion around their specific capabilities to meet project objectives.
- Can they translate the jargon of the Standards into plain English?
- Do they understand your industry?
- Can they identify the specific needs of your company?
- Can they articulate the methodology they would use to meet your requirements?
- Is their methodology flexible?
- Do they encourage employee participation? And if so, what’s their style and approach?
- Can they facilitate your certification audit?
- What type of follow-up support do they provide (do they conduct post-implementation site visits, can they maintain the system for you)?
- Ask for work history & references. Call the references.
6. Set up Face-to-Face Interviews
Ensure that the person who will be working closely with the consultant attends the discussion. The key determining factors candidates should demonstrate include:
- Why did they become a consultant, because no one would employ them, or because they love what they do?
- How experienced are they? A consultant who has worked in different environments under various circumstances for several years is more likely to deliver high quality services in less time.
- Can they develop a system that’s customised to your business needs? Can they see your big picture?
- How service focused are they?
- Are they friendly, approachable . . . do they listen?
- Are they capable of conducting a transfer of knowledge to key staff to support system maintenance? The consultant’s repeat business should come from doing a good job, not from being the only person who understands the system!
- Will they be able to generate tangible benefits for your business, a return on your investment?
Our approach comes from long experience in showing that there is usually more than one right answer. Each solution, however, presents different risks and benefits. We will find the best solution for your specific issues and environment. The solution that balances both current and future needs, carefully accounting for, and mitigating risk. Plus we’ve never failed an audit and that’s because we take pride in what we do – and we back it with a guarantee of success.
Thanks for listening and good luck!