There’s no shortage of things to learn as a junior consultant. What’s the company culture of the client I’ll be supporting? How does one go about creating a project plan. What does synergy even mean?

Now, many years into my career as a consultant, I can quickly pick up on a company’s culture, and adjust my working style to meet their needs. I can build a project plan in my sleep. And I can at least pretend to understand what synergy means.

But there is one thing I still haven’t gotten my head around – why are so many project teams, or consulting teams still so large?

Once upon a time, large consulting teams may have made sense. But that age is long gone. We live in a world of hyper efficiency. I no longer have to call a cab company and wait for them to send one of their dozens of cabs to pick up. I can just hail an Uber on my phone. I no longer have to buy an expensive billboard, or take out a magazine spread to try to reach my target client. Instead I can target them with low-cost Facebook, or LinkedIn ad, and know I’m reaching the right person almost every time. It’s time for the consulting world to adapt to this world of hyper efficiency and stop insisting that team size equates to project success. It doesn’t.

In many instances large consulting teams can often be more detrimental than valuable to a project. Why?

 

Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Almost inevitably, the more people you introduce to a project the more likely you are to encounter issues. Each person you bring into the project exponentially increases the chance of friction, differing views, errors, etc.

With teams of 20, 30, 50 consultants you bring 20, 30, 50 unique viewpoints and ways of working. Differing ideas can be useful to a point – new perspectives can help solve problems. However, at some point, those unique viewpoints and ways of working are going to cause conflict to arise as various members of the team try to push their particular management style or ideas.

And just like genies once conflicts are present they are challenging to put back in the bottle.

 

Lack of accountability.

Outsize consulting teams can often lead to a distinct lack of accountability. When mistakes are made on small teams it’s tough to point fingers, and often mistakes are uncovered earlier because small teams, by nature, must work closely together to achieve success. Small teams can’t operate in silos. They must collaborate constantly to ensure project milestones and timeline are met. Oftentimes, small teams overlap on responsibilities to ensure potential gaps are filled. This again, makes it fare more likely that a mistake will be caught early on by a small team and resolved before it becomes a potential derailment to the project.

On a large consulting team, it can be easy to hide a mistake that could ultimately turn into a major derailment. Large teams, with so many roles to fill consultants are often working in distinct silos, with limited overlap between responsibilities. That makes it much easier to camouflage a mistake, unless one is willing to speak up.

It’s also much easier to lay the blame elsewhere with such a large group. That type of finger-pointing not only causes delays to resolution, it also sows dissent within the team, adding a further complexity that increase the likelihood of a significant derailment to the project.

 

Confused chain of command.

Large consulting teams often bring with them large leadership teams. Multiple members of that team will be identified as “Senior something” or “Project Lead.” The challenge with having multiple individuals identified as a leader arises when a clear chain of command is needed.

Say a major delay to the project is identified. Which Senior member or Project Lead is notified first? Who serves as the Account Manager? Is the Account Manager even on the consulting team? If not, at what point is the Account Manager notified? Who makes the decision to bring in the Account Manager? What if the Account Manager’s leadership needs to brought in to address the issue.

When a major delay to the project is identified the process should be pretty straightforward – the single senior member, or project lead is notified. The senior member or project lead also happens to be the Account Manager. They immediately alert the client to the delay and work directly with the client towards a satisfactory resolution.

If a team is having to spend time determining who they are even supposed to alert because the chain of command is unclear, it could lead to further confusion and delays.

 

Small teams by necessity are more agile, more responsive, and more collaborative. Instead of hiring 30 people who are experts in one lone area, consider bringing on a team of 5 consultants with a depth of experience in multiple areas, who can bring the agile, responsive, collaborative approach and avoid the pitfalls of large consulting teams described above.

At Providge, we focus on delivering exceptional, yet efficient results through small consulting and project teams. We bring together consultants with a breadth and depth of experience so we can provide the highest value to our clients via small, cost-effective teams. The ability to be agile, responsive, collaborative and to deliver projects on-time and on-budget to our clients is a our primary focus.