24 December 2009

Consulting for the Current Economy

I am so pleasantly surprised that I have been flooded with consulting work all throughout this global recession. With the talk on the news about the Dubai debt crisis, I was bracing myself for a lull in my professional life. But lo and behold I am getting more phone calls now than I have in a long time. To what do I owe this honor? It has to do with the most obvious request related to the current economy: organizational restructuring.

My latest project, just completed this week, involved organization-wide restructuring and optimal manpower needs. It was an interesting assignment and raised quite a few questions in my mind, particularly ethical questions. As an "expert" I was asked to assess current employee numbers in terms of how they contributed to core business. Then I had to come up with an organization structure to reduce current inefficiencies, leading to increased transparency and effectiveness. The client as a deliverable wanted an ideal organization chart with ideal employee numbers. Of course I understood this as a genuine request as a result of the current economy. But by 'ideal' they really meant 'reduction' in employees. On what basis would I cut people? What sort of an expert does one have to be for that?

So I set about studying the organization's core business and observed key processes and watched key people executing them. It wasn't rocket science. But somebody had to do the dirty job of deciding who had to go. I felt a little unsettled personally because I'd been hearing that HR Departments were the last people being cut because they had to do all the cutting first. How ironic. Anyway, I managed to salvage my personal feelings by finally recommending the following:

1. Bring Technology into the Picture. Lucky for me, there were enough people in the organization that just didn't use basic technology to communicate. Bring in basic technology training and you don't have to get rid of everybody. Find technology that saves time, energy, and manual headaches.

2. Redesign Jobs. If the structure of an organization goes through a revamping process, jobs must be redesigned. What people do will change exponentially under a new workflow. You can't be doing the same things when the organization's layout becomes flatter and the communication lines are altered forever.

3. Assess People Competencies. Newly designed jobs means identifying the competencies required to fulfill the new job needs. Anyone not exhibiting those competencies in terms of behaviors, skills, knowledge, and mindset will most probably see the axe coming down on them. It is imperative that an organization have a competency model that supports any structural changes. They need to ask themselves, "What competencies are needed at our current economic climate for us to stay above water?" and "Who has them and who does not?"

4. Rethink Strategic Business. I suggested before restructuring that the organization would have to rethink their business lines and services to start offering customers what they are desperate for at this time only (Ever wonder why the movie business always does well no matter what the economy? They provide escape from the real world). This also means that if you find that your current crop does not have the competencies required for new job roles as a result of restructure, then look at current strengths they DO possess and leverage them by introducing services that can be offered based on applying those strengths. This one idea actually saved a lot of people from being cut because skills that were underutilized before, are now at the forefront.

Sometimes you have to work backward in order to keep up with a backward economic trend. And that is why organizations are reaching out to independent professionals like myself in the current climate, especially in the Government Sector, as they face unexpected trends.

I am proud to be an unexpected source of help even though it may feel conflicting at certain junctures. And the client was so extremely happy with the solutions I suggested that I am now booked up with work till July of next year purely with word-of-mouth referrals. People are asking where they can find me so I got on the Twitter bandwagon MubeenaMohd. Credibility is a charm that never fails to work.. even under our current economic woes. Remember that always!