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Pre-requisites:

The organisation must be willing to undertake consultancy and be open to change or implement the results of the consultancy. In other words, the organisation wants and needs "to know" the results.

The organisation must be prepared. ALL the people that will be involved and affected will have been briefed. Information will have been identified and made available.

The brief and contract to consultants will have clear outcomes and targets. Both consultant and client will have a clear and agreed notion of what a successful job will be.

How do you want a consultant to help?

What relative weight do you put on the process of solving the problem as opposed to delivering a 'product' (having the solution given to you) as soon as possible? Put another way, how important is it that you 'own' the results of the consultancy through close involvement in the process.

Do you have the answers already within your organisation, but need a facilitator to draw them out, or an input of expert knowledge, someone with experience that you don't have, someone to introduce new ideas or methods of working, or someone to lend weight to your current thinking?

It is in your interest to calculate the type and length of work you anticipate. Beware of paying someone to spend several days finding out what you already know or to do what you can do more effectively (and cheaply) yourselves.

The Client's Responsibilities:

  • Knowing what the objective is
  • Conveying the objective
  • Planning how results can be helped to take effect
  • Setting the terms
  • Agreeing the framework for the work
  • Preparing the ground
  • Briefing those involved/affected
  • Facilitating the work of the consultants
  • Ensuring access to information/personnel
  • Providing a liaison system

Other factors:

  • Temporary skills/expertise/experience shortage for a task
  • Alternative strategies identified - help needed in choosing
  • Advice has to be independent to work
  • Organisation or strategies would improve with independent appraisal
  • Organisation wants to gain new skills

Results

In order for the recommendations / results from a piece of work to be effective they should be:
  • Implementable i.e. REALISTIC
  • Appropriately communicated in a suitable form, with clarity to all the necessary people.
  • Accepted and OWNED by those responsible for the follow through

Where Consultancy is Usually Unsuitable:

  • Consultancy is forced upon your organisation
  • Organisation unwilling for other reasons
  • Key personnel not all agreed on need
  • Problem or issue is known to be genuinely insoluble
  • The organisation wants a "magician"
  • The organisation is not clear about what it wants
  • Brief would involve devolving tasks that cannot be effectively devolved
  • Alternatives to consultancy have not been considered
  • Organisation not willing to be "open"

It is important for clients to enjoy using a consultant and enjoy implementing change when necessary. And remember, in most operating situations CHANGE IS THE NORM.

Paying consultants

Consultants working on prolonged pieces of work will want to negotiate interim payments. Try to match any such payments to clear and measurable completion of elements of the job. Retain a substantial portion as a final payment against completion of the work including any amendments to the final report.

Anticipate the arrival of invoices and try to pay promptly within the agreed terms. Late payments can cause considerable difficulties, even for the larger firms of consultants.

Ten Key Points

  • Know what you want - the value is ALL in the planning.
  • Know what you are going to do with results when you get them.
  • The brief must be realistic - it must be manageable.
  • Consultants are not magicians.
  • Forced consultancies usually won't work.
  • There are usually alternatives to consultancy.
  • The choice of consultant is vital.
  • Access to information is crucial.
  • Your involvement with the consultants can be more important than receiving their written report.
  • Don't keep the project to yourself if you want it to take effect.

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