In an earlier article this year, we shared some key strategies for effectively collaborating with consultants to achieve successful outcomes.

It is critical to provide clear communication and establish expectations from the outset of the relationship.

Effective communication involves clearly defining project goals, roles, and responsibilities, as well as establishing regular channels for feedback and updates. By establishing a strong foundation, both the inhouse and consultant teams can align their efforts towards achieving desired outcomes.

Which is pretty much why you, your team, and your consultants are working together. To provide value back to your brand and organisation.

Recap: How to balance resources between an inhouse team and your consultants?

Working with consultants can be a strategic approach to save or optimise resources across various scenarios.

For example, organisations that are just starting to build their PR/marketing function, or connect marketing to revenue triggers, or executing on a brand campaign or product launch can benefit from assembling an internal-external team to deliver on the established plan.

However, it is important to allocate time for aligning goals and outcomes with the external support, as well as setting up clear briefs, workflows, checkpoints, and desired outputs.

Realism plays a key role in resource balancing. Evaluating the strategic communications/PR plan to determine the feasibility of desired outcomes and milestones within the allocated budget, time, and team input is crucial. Being honest about the team’s capabilities and available time can help identify gaps that may require external support to bridge and solve.

It is essential not to set teams up for failure by imposing unrealistic targets. Stretch goals should align with the team’s capabilities and capacity. If the necessary skills or resources are lacking internally, it may be necessary to bring in external support to ensure success.

As external support efforts begin to yield positive results, organisations can consider the evolution of the relationship with their consultants. This could involve transitioning responsibilities to an in-house team member or bringing a specialist into the organisation.

By redeploying external specialists to other projects, organisations can maintain an ongoing relationship, benefitting from their familiarity with the organisation’s culture, goals, and internal team structure.


What are the 3 stages of alignment and integration between teams and consultants?

There are 3 stages when it comes to alignment and integration between the inhouse and consultant teams – generally defined as pre-engagement, onboarding and empowerment.

During pre-engagement of the consultant, the idea is to do an assessment of your team’s work culture and styles. Determine the baseline and the non-negotiables. Put these down into writing, or better yet, create a standard operating process. These can include matters such as team goals, objectives for the year/quarter, meeting outcomes, frequency, cadence, and other aspects that the team recognises as a structure.

Ensure that a positive and productive onboarding is done with the specialist. Allow time and space – usually up to a month – for the external team to research, read and ask questions (no matter how basic it can be).

As both teams move to the empowerment stage, the team leader should start thinking in terms of clearing obstacles for the combined team to do their best work. These obstacles can include older approaches or methods of doing things or helping other business stakeholders become familiar with the people and the work done.

Sidebar: Why is nurturing harmony more important than encouraging micro-tensions?  

While micro-tensions are sometimes regarded as drivers of innovation and competition, harmony can be more important, with a positive impact on employee well-being, productivity, and long-term organisational outcomes.

A harmonious workplace creates a positive atmosphere where employees feel valued and supported. By promoting collaboration and understanding, organisations reduce stress, conflicts, and negativity associated with micro-tensions. Harmony fosters psychological safety, leading to higher job satisfaction, improved mental health, and increased engagement.

Harmony enables effective teamwork, communication, and cooperation, fostering productivity and creativity. When individuals work harmoniously, they leverage diverse perspectives for better problem-solving and innovation. Micro-tensions, such as internal rivalries and constant friction, hinder collaboration, impede information sharing, and diminish overall performance.

When team members perceive a culture of harmony, they align with organisational values and goals, increasing loyalty and commitment. Micro-tensions fragment teams, create silos, and erode trust, leading to disengagement, turnover, and a fractured organisational identity.

By encouraging open dialogue and understanding, employees feel safe expressing their perspectives without judgment or exclusion. This inclusive environment fosters belonging, stimulates creativity, and attracts top talent. Micro-tensions undermine inclusivity, perpetuate biases, and hinder the free exchange of ideas.

Given the benefits of nurturing harmony within teams, prioritising the growth and sustenance of harmony over micro-tensions can be essential work, to drive better outcomes.  

How can we integrate workflow between teams?

Integration takes place over all 3 stages.

For example, during the pre-engagement stage, it is important for you to decide on the reason for engagement (of the consultant). This can be access capabilities, to lead projects or to increase resources. Depending on the reason, consider what areas and outcomes the consultant will be responsible for, whether jointly with the inhouse team, or as an individual contributor (with full responsibility) as part of the scope of work.

Create or refresh the communications or marketing plan and integrate the consultant’s areas and scope. Secure buy-in and understanding from management, as well as coordinating or project ownership with inhouse team members.

During the onboarding period as both the inhouse team and specialist are learning work styles and work flow, try not to set immediate outcomes or take pains to over-explain as it might give either team an inaccurate impression of the work culture. Remember that the goal is to optimise for specialist knowledge, capabilities, and resources a specialist brings, and not just add another pair of hands to the team.

Providing access to stakeholders, information and internal systems (for e.g. CRM, summarised sales figures, etc) can help optimise the consultant’s performance or delivery of outcomes. There are genuine reasons for withholding company sensitive information and data from external parties, so this is not about opening full access to sensitive information but instead ensuring that the consultant understands a bigger picture and perspective.

Finally, empowerment includes co-ownership of results and outcomes. Working together as one team provides the consultant with support that they are working towards business goals and not being the odd person looking in from the outside and being ineffective.


3 recommendations for achieving and sustaining harmony.

Here are 3 recommendations we would add to the process of achieving and maintaining harmony.

We work in time-poor and high-pressure environments. However, without giving both teams the right time, space and environment to come together successfully, we are just setting up ourselves and our teams for failure. When in doubt, remember the entire process – across administrative, stakeholder relations, team management areas – that it took to get to this point, and how you might not want to repeat it again.

You are optimising for specialist knowledge and capabilities that your inhouse team might not have, or needs to level up to. Stop judging the consultant based on past performance. You would not do so when buying stocks (past performance is not indicative of future performance) so why start now when selecting your consultants. Look at what they can bring to the table, that will support your team’s growth and how they can bring you closer to your objectives.

This can be any combination of having regular check-ins with the team, understanding and resolving conflict, keeping all members updated on changes with decisions, resources or priorities, and also understanding when to step away and let members focus on their scope. The feedback loop to create and maintain is based on whether desired outcomes are being delivered in the timeframe agreed upon, and whether you can help remove obstacles along the way.

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