Interview with Dr Robin Bryden – Part 3/6: Using consultants – Holding hands when learning to walk

Continuing on from last month’s post, Dr Robin Bryden explains how to maximise the input of consultants when using Hearts and Minds and discusses how consultants can provide advantageous support when starting to use the toolkit:

“Hearts and Minds is designed to be used without the need to use consultants.  You can use Hearts and Minds by just using your own people from the beginning, by giving them the space and time to think about the Hearts and Minds material and how best to adapt them.  However, external consultants bring resources and knowledge, and the right consultant can be very useful. 

If you get a consultant in to get you started off, they can act as a guide to help you get ‘walking’, but you also need to build your own capacity internally in order to make your programme sustainable – you should be able to rely less and less on the consultant.  If you don’t want to or can’t use a consultant to begin with, then that is fine, but you need confidence and time to plan and learn how to use the tools; but sometimes it’s easier to have someone holding your hand.  It’s the difference between learning to walk yourself and having someone hold your hand.  Interestingly, my daughter refused – refused! – to hold my hand when she was learning to walk.

At Sakhalin Energy, the Driving for Excellence training was a course delivered by an external company.  We agreed with them beforehand what the content should be, and we gave them all our Hearts and Minds materials (bought from the Energy Institute), but they took it and collated it in their own way.  However, for our Understanding your Culture workshops, we just use the tools as provided by the EI and they are delivered internally with no consultant help. 

There’s a split between how external consultants will use the tools, and how what I like to call ‘internal consultants’ (people who work for the company rolling out the project) will use them.  So, if I was an internal consultant (so this is my company), I will know my company, what the strengths are, where the gaps are, and collect data around where those gaps are (using audit reports, safety cases, etc.) to sell to my internal stakeholders (managers and staff), to help them see what the problem is and build a collective case for change.  And depending on what the problems are, I would dive straight into those tools that best address that problem… and I’d just get on with it. 

However, if I was an external consultant coming from outside the company and trying to help a company diagnose what their problem is, I might start with Understanding Your Culture and the SAFE appraisal system.  I would use SAFE with senior managers and run a workshop with them based on the feedback they receive, and I would also use Understanding Your Culture with a number of other groups to find out what issues there are.  I’d then bring all that information together and run another Understanding Your Culture workshop with the senior managers.  I’d give them their SAFE results, give them some feedback from the workforce via the first Understanding Your Culture exercise, and give them additional information based on audits, incidents, to help them see their current reality, and off the back of that focus in on some more specific areas.  All this is mainly to discover where the problems are, and importantly to convince Senior Management and other stakeholders that there is a problem that needs fixing.  Afterwards comes the part of actually fixing it.”

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