Farrar's Faucet: A psychologist’s candid, productive and often humorous take on principled business behavior and better business outcomes.

Working with consultants

Have you been involved in a consulting project or business change that just doesn’t get off the ground, or worse still, absorbs a lot of time, money and energy and doesn’t deliver the promised results? There are three essential steps to making the relationship work: Focus, Grow and Relate!

Focus On The Few Things That Make The Most Impact.
  • Start With The Expected Results: A commitment is often in terms of “deliverables”, not results. Define success in terms of outcomes, and hold change agents accountable for results, not activities.
  • Identify the Appetite For Change: Time, money and energy are limited resources in every organization. Consultants and clients should work together to identify which changes will be acceptable and how many resources can be devoted to the project.
  • Fast Track Attack: Identify the few significant things that will make the most impact with the least cost in the quickest time. If these “fast track attack” items are a priority they can drive the project and serve as a platform from which to launch other changes.
Grow Skills And Leverage Resources.
  • Build The Evaluation In At The Beginning: It follows that if you start with the outcomes, the measures of success are the results for the business. Progress reports, deliverables and project meetings are only useful as far as they keep the project focused on the outcomes.
  • Measures can be quantitative and qualitative so long as they are objective and meaningful. There should be a clear line-of-sight from every measure to defined business results.
  • Have A Clear Expression Of Value: For the results to happen they have to be connected to the business in a meaningful way. Express results as time, money or well-being in a way that justifies the investment.
  • Leverage Resources For The Most Impact: Clients and organizations turn to consultants for one of two reasons. They want to outsource a specific expertise or activity, or they want to grow the expertise or ability themselves. Either way, the best approach is to use the client’s assets wherever it makes sense: grow their capabilities, be economical with their resources and save the consultant’s effort for where it will have the most positive effect
  • Engage Everyone To Bring Their Time, Talent and Trust: Clients want to feel part of the solution. Involve them in creating the solution and implementation and they will “own” the results and work with you to make them succeed. When clients are involved they add their skills and knowledge to your own, multiplying the chances of success.
  • Measure The Investment And The Outcomes On Value: Charging by the hour or by the activity is a conflict of interest. Clients do not want to pay for activity, only results. Consultants should not make more if they take longer or use more resources than necessary. An appropriate fee should be in proportion to the value the client will get from the project and the market for the solution. A value-based fee puts a cap on the cost of the project, ensures there is never a “meter running”, and motivates the consultant to do whatever work is reasonably necessary to get the job done.
Relate Results to a Supportive Network of People, Objectives and Behaviors.
  • Surround Yourself With The Right People: An acceptable level of thinking skills and the right technical skills are only the “price of admission” to getting the job done. At least as important is the ability to create and build positive relationships with customers and co-workers to understand their needs, articulate your needs, and make progress toward achieving common goals.
  • Work Side-By-Side: Projects traditionally involve a “needs identification” stage, a “proposal”, analysis, recommendations and finally a hand-over to begin “implementation.” Every change of accountability provides another opportunity for confusion, mistakes and loss of focus. The traditional approach is wrong. Consultants and clients should work together throughout the process sharing responsibility and resources for the best results. Shared effort produces more satisfaction with the product.
  • Make Everything Actionable and Meaningful: At the end of the day what counts is that the client can use the work, own the solution and make a difference.
Trust Is the Key

The interaction between the consultant and the client has to be one of mutual respect. The client needs to have trust in the credibility, commitment and candor of the consultant. The consultant needs to be invested in the achievement and well-being of the client. The essential ingredient is the client’s trust that the consultant has their best interests at heart, and an ability to make their success possible.

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