12 Steps to Keep Consultants and Consultations on Track

positive-business-meeting-Mark-Goulston“I’m less concerned about what they’ll do for us than what they’ll do to us,” said a chief operating officer of an early-stage company expressing his concern about hiring consultants

Many companies are reluctant to hire consultants because they fear that after a consultant comes in and does a diagnosis and some initial work, they will find too much that needs fixing at too great a cost, and that will require an unrealistic commitment and focus from people inside the company.

The consultant is concerned with making the recommendations they’ve been engaged to give, and with the success of those recommendations.

As a consultant does a diagnosis, he or she will often uncover key factors that if unaddressed will make the consultation ineffective. In other words, the consultant will discover that what a company wants is not what it needs, and if it fails to address what it needs, not only will the consultation not be a success, but the company may not succeed.

What is needed to correct this?

We have developed a 12-step process to help consultants and their clients communicate, cooperate and collaborate and increase the chances of success.

Step 1: Problem Definition

What’s going on in a company? The consultant meets with the principal decision makers and key executives to see what they feel their biggest challenges (problems) are, what they think their greatest opportunities are, what they think their greatest strengths and weaknesses are, and what they think needs to change to meet their challenges effectively and take advantage of their opportunities.

Step 2: Assessment of Outcomes

What outcomes does the company want to achieve? The consultant puts together the input from Step 1 and reaches a consensus about these outcomes with the principal decision makers.

Step 3: Available and Not Available Approaches

The company selects consultations and actions are that are necessary to reach those outcomes, e.g. structural reorganization, team building, strategic planning, business planning, financial planning, etc. Which of the resources to achieve those goals are available and accessible within the company, and what will need to be added?

Step 4: Strategic Planning of Consultation

The order and sequence of different consultations and actions is established. Who is going to do what, when, and where is determined, and a process for accountability is established.

Step 5: Education and Involvement of Key Executives

The consultant educates the main decision-makers on agreed upon outcomes, agreed upon strategies to achieve those outcomes, and the people within the company best suited to execute those strategies, then obtains a commitment to action from these decision-makers.

Step 6: Education and Involvement of Relevant Staff

The key executives and/or consultant explain what is going to happen, why, why now, then obtains a commitment from the people who are going to do what is called for.

Step 7: Fine Tuning

The consultant assists the company in adjusting and modifying approaches to fit the situation as it evolves.

Step 8: Does the Consultation Work?

The consultant checks to see that the approach is producing the desired results (i.e. moving the company towards agreed-upon outcomes).

Step 9: Monitoring Mechanism

The consultant determines a way to periodically measure and make changes to keep everything on course and gains commitment from key executives and managers to implement that monitoring system.

Step 10: Continuity

The consultant helps the company develop a program to follow through with changes. There needs to be some kind of scheduled periodic follow-up to ensure follow-through (turning changes into habits).

Step 11: Maintenance

The consultant helps the company develop a way to make necessary changes when called for and make them part of the corporate culture so that the company is self-reliant.

Step 12: Disengagement

The consultant helps the company develop a way to make changes on their own without the consultant’s help. An early warning system is developed for a company to know when problems are arising, and how to nip them in the bud and address them.

 Originally published at American City Business Journals

Mark Goulston

Mark Goulston

Mark Goulston is a prominent psychiatrist and consultant to major organizations. His book, Just Listen, ranked #1 in six Amazon/Kindle categories, and has been translated into 14 languages. Learn more about Mark at http://goulstongroup.com/.

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