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  • Isabelle Ulbrich

ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A CONSULTATION

Aktualisiert: 7. März

I'm sitting in front of my laptop on a rainy day in October 2020. It's 7:58 a.m. and my video conferencing program tells me to wait until the organiser lets me into the meeting. I've been working in the automotive supply industry for a really long time. Perhaps a little too long.



Although I'm actually happy in my job, these types of events really go against the grain – the term “lectures” would probably be more appropriate. I do all I can as a coach for problem-solving methods and learning management in my company. I train our production employees so that they can solve complex problems in the production environment without outside help. This has enabled us to more than halve the amount of time and effort spent on contracts with external engineering firms over the past seven years and massively increase employee satisfaction...


My screen changes colour and takes me out of my thoughts. In just under a minute, our Chief Operations Officer - I'll call him Thomas - presents the strategic importance of today’s meeting to the 130 or so people present online. It's about the next three years, in which the company must “focus on efficiency with the necessary rigour. There is still a lot of room for improvement.” First damper - thank you, Thomas. Although I've known you and your leadership style for several years, you always manage to pulverise the motivation in the team. He introduces today's consultant: “The consulting arm of Germany's most renowned sports car manufacturer is being utilised for this mission. Seize the opportunity!” Mr Westermann appears on the screen – a textbook management consultant and one who embodies exactly what most of the listeners disfavour but put up with in obedient silence.


His opening monologue lasts a full 21 minutes. Now that everyone involved has learnt that Westermann has already worked for eight DAX companies, has brought two mineral oil companies to “Westermann” and that his 16 years of consulting to date are a success story in a class of their own, the virtual hall remains quiet – almost embarrassingly quiet. No applause, no confetti. “Does anyone have any questions?”. No reaction. I briefly estimate that the 21-minute self-presentation cost around CHF 180 at the usual daily rate of such a consulting luminary. Congratulations. After making sure that both my camera and microphone are switched off, I devote myself to the following contributions with just one ear and attend to my overflowing email inbox.


After 36 answered emails, two apples, a 60-minute lunch break and a training session that I have prepared for the following week, Mr Westermann sums up the current situation of our company. I am 100% back in the meeting and listen intently. That all-important information has to come now at the latest. He summarises the results:


  • Efficiency is with every single employee – getting people on board!

  • Focus on „Low hanging fruits“ – realise quick success with little effort!

  • KPIs, KPIs, KPIs – what you can’t measure you can’t improve!

  • 5S is not just “tidying up the workplace” – it is philosophy. Use it!

  • Be consistent and be consequent – it's all a question of sustainability.


Wow. I silently thank them for this valuable information with a shake of my head. In fact, I would have expected something more concrete for once. Could this be because the comments and feedback from the participants fell flat? That every answer from Westermann was dismissed with “Exactly and that's why it's different from what you think”? That the thoughts of those present, who fight every day at the base of the company for the last ounce of success, were neither valued nor included in the planning?


A pity, actually. It could have been good. But, unfortunately, the consultancy cliché has been confirmed once again: Appearing out of nowhere, telling things for horrendous fees that can either always be applied or are already known. And I'm sure that, as a consultant, you could do it very differently and much better...


HOW QUICKLY THE TIDE OF COUNSELLING TURNS.


It's February 2024. Having changed jobs in the meantime, I'm now sitting in the beautiful, modern office of SWISSTEACH AG in Nidau on a Monday morning. As Customer Success Manager, I am in direct contact with our customers. The job suits me and my pronounced helper syndrome very well. People I know and former colleagues keep asking me how I ended up here. From an automotive technology group with over 10,000 employees to an IT company with 26 colleagues. There was definitely a bit of luck involved. And the will to finally make a difference.


As an e-learning agency, SWISSTEACH AG is known far beyond the borders of Switzerland for its GLOBAL TEACH® learning management system (LMS). However, SWISSTEACH is much more than just a LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM PROVIDER.Thanks to development and Covid, there are now many LMS companies. But unfortunately, experience has shown that many of them only have the goal of collecting a signed contract and then leaving customers out in the rain with their system.


So why did I end up at SWISSTEACH? Simple answer: it's always about “the big picture”. Instead of forcing systems into the customer's processes, we first scrutinise those. Instead of imposing ready-made software on the customer's teams, we take a close look to understand what is actually needed for success. And so SWISSTEACH's consulting services are exactly what I was missing back then...


In addition to our customer projects, the area of CONSULTING is now part of my responsibilities. Following the retirement of my predecessor, I was able to redesign it and incorporate the experience I had gained with consultants. (At this point, a big thank you to Mr Westermann for the dubious example of how NOT to do it). SWISSTEACH AG stands for understanding and recognising the challenges, worries and concerns of its customers at eye level. With this in mind and together with the valuable tips from my now retired colleague, I would like to outline the guidelines that should form the basis of SWISSTEACH's consulting services.


  1. Like in school days: "Listening comprohension" Consulting is misunderstood by many. It is often interpreted as “We'll tell you how to do it properly”. As we have seen from Westermann, this preconception is often successfully realised. But there’s a better way! Of course the customer should receive added value. However, this only comes about when the first step listening is successful – in other words, when my counterpart speaks to me openly and with confidence and I understand their points and, above all, take them seriously. Every customer is different – after all, we are talking about people here – and it makes no sense to catapult each individual into the same scheme and the same programme. Individual challenges need to be regarded and solved individually.

  2. Independent recognition instead of a “slap to the face” Ideally, consultations do not take place with individuals. After all, counselling thrives on the fact that different perspectives, experiences, and opinions are part of the workshop. At this point, a good consultation provides the right tools to get the participants into a mode where they can recognise their situation holistically and on their own to develop possible alternative courses of action. In my role as a consultant, I bring both the theoretical knowledge and the experience from countless projects – both successful and failed ones. At the end of the day, this combination REALLY helps our customers progress!

  3. Let`s get specific "And what do we actually do with it now?" There is nothing worse than the participants of a consulting workshop leaving the event with this question. This is exactly what we are going to counteract. The consulting that I will be doing with our customers in future is characterized by the fact that a jointly developed concept is always followed by a concrete action plan. And this does NOT come from the consultant, but is – based on the right guiding questions from the consultant – ultimately the work of the participants, who plan and outline their own future. SWISSTEACH follows the credo of supporting customers in optimally setting up their training area so that every employee can work efficiently with it. For me, this means that the WILL TO DO SOMETHING must come from the customer - SWISSTEACH provides advice and support on the HOW. And we're really good at that!

  4. The roadmap to success I've never been a fan of “Now let's see how it goes and then we'll see how it develops”. For this reason, our consulting is structured in six phases right from the start: With this roadmap, our future customers are also on the safe side of coming out of the consultation with a useful HOW. Step 1: Recognise existing challenges Step 2: What is the vision of the participants? Do they all really want to go in the same direction? Step 3: Who are the parties involved? Who represents which interests? Step 4: The customised concept for future processes Step 5: What needs to be done step by step to achieve the vision and the future process? Step 6: JUST DO IT!

  5. Sustainability Anyone who knows SWISSTEACH knows that, in addition to our Learning Management System (LMS) GLOBAL TEACH®, we are characterised by one thing in particular: We are available! Sounds strange, but anyone who has ever needed unbureaucratic and prompt help will appreciate it. And not just during a customer project, but also before and especially after. Logically, this mission also applies to our consultations. A one-off visit with meaningless advice and unavailability afterwards is out of the question for SWISSTEACH. We are partners for the long term and that is exactly how we work with our customers.


...AND AT THE END IS THE BEGINNING.


What a strange twist of fate, that I, who has always ranted about the consulting profession, can now actually take on the “There's a better way”. I'm incredibly happy to be able to tackle this task. Now only one thing is missing: YOU!

Simply contact us and let us inform you about the possibilities of a consultation. We are always available to answer your questions about DIGITAL EMPLOYEE TRAINING and much more.


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