Why Do I Call It "Stealth Consulting?" by Dick Handshaw Return

I first heard the term "Performance Consulting" in the mid-1990s. I am not sure who first created the term but Dana and Jim Robinson certainly contributed greatly to its proliferation. It is descriptive terminology to be sure, but I have discovered that you have to be careful how you use it.

Many organizations were attempting to introduce the practice of performance consulting into their HR organizations during the mid-1990s. The practitioners were the training or organizational development professionals. In many cases, the change amounted to sending practitioners to a class or workshop in performance consulting and printing up business cards with the new title "Performance Consultant." I'm sure a number of these enthusiastic, newly trained performance consultants met with some resistance. When they were summoned by their client to help with a training or OD problem, they announced that they were performance consultants now and they were available to help solve business problems and recommend a whole variety of business solutions in addition to training and/or OD solutions…

A keynote speaker at an ISPI meeting back in the nineties introduced me to the concept of "stealth consulting" as she called it. She had been part of one of those well intended moves to go beyond training to create a performance consulting organization. She even had the business card with the new title to prove it! That bold new initiative with performance consulting never overcame the resistance and soon faded, especially after her manager who launched the initiative left the company.

Shortly after that experience, she left that organization and took a leadership position in a smaller company. Remembering her first experience with performance consulting, but still committed to the value of the role, she tried again. She began by building relationships and engaging her new clients in proactive performance consulting meetings when there was no agenda or request for training. She hired the Robinsons to conduct performance consulting training for her team. But she stopped short of making those new business cards. Instead she asked her staff to be, well…stealth consultants. She asked her staff to partner with their clients, to identify key business goals and share the responsibility with their clients for achieving them. Rather than telling people they were consultants, she and her team became consultants. They measured results and reported on the outcomes and results they had achieved. I visited her two years later and chatted with her and her team. It was clear to me they had been successful beyond their expectations…

About the Author

Dick Handshaw is a pioneer in the learning field, with more than 30 years of experience as a learning and performance improvement professional. He began his career creating one of the very first applications of computer-based software simulation and interactive video to be used outside of a laboratory. In 1985, he founded Handshaw, Inc. and has served as a learning consultant for many large companies and organizations to help them establish an instructional design strategy, methodology, and practice. Dick regularly speaks at international conferences such as American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) and International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).