Pato pulls out full bag of tricks to frustrate external consultant’s report
After partisan hurdles in the procurement process, Trulogic in early August finally hired Doris Bengato, the Managing Consultant of Time Bound Consultants.
Doris was to review its business model and propose workable recommendations beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. From the start, Pato was against awarding the contract to an external consulting firm.
Being a logistics consultant in his own right, he had wanted the assignment to be undertaken internally, with a view to becoming the lead consultant. But CEO Ben smelt a rat and overruled him.
In addition, an “insider” consultant was not expected to exercise objectivity.During the initial client-consultant meeting at Trulogic’s boardroom, Doris tabled her consultancy methodology and workplan.
Without allowing her time to explain finer details, Pato said: “I have no problem with the workplan. My issue is with your methodology.
Interviewing a few staff members at all levels will not provide you with full information on our problems.”
Fellow managers were momentarily tickled into a carefree laughter. They were aware that Pato did not possess prerequisite research knowledge and skills for the assignment.
With tongue in cheek, Doris responded: “Employee participation in this exercise is crucial. But due to limited time, I shall not interview all employees.”
Pato expressed concern over Doris’s plan to gather data from Trulogic’s competitors, particularly Smartlogics.
He inquired: “How can we be sure that you shall not share our business secrets to the competition?”
One of the managers was unhappy about Pato’s suspicions. To cast doubts on a consultant’s professionalism was to kick off consultancy work on the wrong foot.
Exuding an aura of humility, Doris said: “As part of my engagement contract, I signed a non-disclosure agreement that binds me during and even after the consultation period.”
External consultants, while executing their duties, have to contend with uninformed employees of the client organisation.
From the interview schedule, Pato was to meet Doris on Wednesday at midday. To intentionally avoid the interview, he created a surprise inspection of Trulogic delivery vans outside Nairobi CBD.
Feigning courtesy, he called Doris on her mobile phone to reschedule the meeting to Monday the following week. During the formal interview, Pato was unable to propose any business model for the future of Trulogic.
Instead, he concentrated on faulting Ben for the deteriorating performance of the company. Doris hit back: “As a member of the management team, you are also responsible for the profitability of the business. In fact, your department is the engine of Trulogic.”
Pato smiled broadly exposing his unkempt front teeth. For once, his department had been put on the limelight by an independent person.
After the agreed consulting period of two and half months, Doris requested for an unexpected billable extension of two more weeks. Pato sought to know the reasons for the extra time. He had forgotten how he interfered with the workplan through fake excuses on his availability.
Sometimes poor co-operation on the part of a client’s employees could stall the deliverables of a consultancy assignment. A cornered consultant may resort to seeking for goodwill from the CEO to bring the exercise back on track.
After the consultancy report was ready, Doris presented its summary using PowerPoint slides to an anxious management team.
Pato was among the few managers who were not paying attention to the report’s background.
The managers were seen scrolling on their smartphone screens pretending to make notes. They appeared like students taking dictation in a lecture hall.
When Doris mentioned the word recommendations, everyone held their breath.
Clearing her throat, she read out a list: “First, Trulogic could scout for a strategic partner willing to take up a 60 per cent stake of the company. Second, the company can offer staff its shares in lieu of plans to drastically cut down their salaries for at least two years.
Last, Trulogic can call it quits and close down its operations. Then auction its assets to settle current bank loans, clear outstanding creditors and pay off staff terminal benefits.”
Managers met the final proposal with loud mouth whistling and prolonged mumbling.
Pato was the first one to respond to the presentation. “I hope we land on a strategic partner. Allocating paper shares to staff will not put food on their tables. Closing down would be declaring bankruptcy and letting staff go home empty handed.”
If he had been given the consultancy, Pato would have suggested business continuity by aggressive penetration into the gigantic Comesa Market.
Unaware that recommendations are based on analysis of collected data, Pato was bound to fail a competency test as an internal consultant.
Harry Katumba, the Finance Manager, requested for the financial figures that informed the recommendations. He was bent on finding faults that would throw out the report to the corporate dust bin.
Doris showed the financial reports which consisted of data provided by Harry. He bowed down his head signalling defeat in the first round.
Focusing on the fate of employees, Phyllice Nsao, the HR Manager, engaged Doris in a spirited fight. Nothing changed on the organisation structures she had provided the consultant.
To save her face, Phyllice said: “If the hammer finally falls on closure, management should strictly adhere to the provisions of labour laws when showing employees the door.” It was not clear what legal action could be taken by sacked employees of a bankrupt company.
Pato asked Ben to seek opinions from two other consultants before picking the best option. Unmoved by the suggestion, Doris said: “Business decisions in the backdrop of the devastating impact of Covid-19 pandemic should not be treated as potential legal tussles that first require opinions.
On this assignment, available data and information from your company speaks for itself.”
Out of naivety, Pato inquired whether the report could be doctored to suit the interests of the management team. Ben shouted: “Pato! Are you serious about suggesting favourable amendments to the report. Which amendments do you have in mind?”
As Pato was scratching his bald head in search of a plausible answer, Ben told the managers: “I shall now kick the ball into the court of the Trulogic Board of Directors. Since the board shall have the last say on this matter, hold your horses until the next board meeting.”
The writer is HRD Consultant and Author of Transition into Retirement,