Foundations of Consulting — Part 3: Primary Working Goals and Assumptions of Consultants

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    Peter Block, in his book, Flawless Consulting, suggests that certain goals and assumptions always be primary for consultants, that is, for individuals working to help people, but not having authority over those people. He suggests the following goals and assumptions.

    Primary Working Goals of Consultants

    1. Establish a collaborative relationship with your clients

    As a consultant, you should work with your clients almost as if you are peers working in a team. This is in contrast to the consultant who always works as an “expert” to direct the client what to do and when. Working in a collaborative fashion with your clients helps ensure that recommendations are accurate, that clients follow the recommendations and that they adopt the changes needed to improve themselves and their organizations.

    2. Solve problems so your clients can solve them later themselves

    The approach to problem solving in the project should always involve your client’s learning about what is being done and why, so that later on your client might use similar approaches to solve similar problems after you are gone from the project. So it’s important to regularly identify learning during the project, and discussing that learning with your client.

    3. Ensure attention to developing the project and relationships

    The quality of the relationship between you and your client is a reliable predictor of the quality of the outcome of the overall project. Your clients often judge a project, not so much by the outcomes from the project, but by the quality of the working relationship with you.

    Primary Working Assumptions

    1. Problem solving requires information that is as accurate as possible.

    Information is more accurate if it reflects the full range of perspectives and opinions among clients in a project, so involve them as much as possible.

    2. Effective decision-making requires free and open choice among participants.

    Free and open choice is more likely to produce the full range of opinions necessary for good planning. It also is more likely to ensure that your clients adopt the changes necessary to bring about change.

    3. Effective implementation requires the internal commitment of your clients.

    If you give participants little choice about what to do, they will likely do what you direct, but only for as long as you are around – and they will not be vested in the outcomes. They may also blame you if it does not work. In contrast, if you involve them as much as possible in project planning and implementation, they are much more likely to implement the plans completely and learn at the same time.

    What do you think?

    Look for the articles in this series, including:

    1. What Do Consultants Do?
    2. How Do Consultants Work?
    3. Most Important Goals and Working Assumptions of Consultants
    4. Major Types of Consultants
    5. Internal and External Consultants
    6. Good Reasons – and Poor Reasons – to Hire Consultants

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    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.

    Information in this post was adapted from the book Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD. For training on consulting skills, see the Consultants Development Institute. For more resources, see the Free Management Library’s topic All About Consulting .

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 763-971-8890 Read my blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, and Strategic Planning .