I’ve been teaching consulting skills since the early 1980’s to both internal and external professionals. I have often asked participants, “What comes to your mind when you think of consultants?” Typically, the answers aren’t very flattering, words like: expensive, suits, PowerPoint decks, outsiders, seagulls, time tellers, and know-it-alls. Of course, as consultants, we want to be recognized as knowledgeable helpers, collaborators, and trusted advisors. Our goal is to add value to the organizations we serve.
I have found a collaborative consulting approach works best, as compared to the expert consulting approach used by most consultants. With collaboration, consultants focus on partnering with a client organization and figuring out how to use their expertise to supplement the organization’s resources and to match the needs of the situation.
Both the consultants and the organization share the responsibility of identifying issues followed by designing and implementing solutions. The consultants support the client so that when the time comes for the consultants to leave, the organization is fully engaged and owns the change. As a result, the change initiated by the consulting project is underway prior to the consultant’s departure.
The collaborative consulting process model below is pretty straightforward, similar to problem solving processes we have all used.
By using a collaborative consulting process, one of the biggest reported problems with the use of consultants can be reduced, if not fully eliminated. That problem is the low rate of successful implementation of consulting projects. With increased collaboration comes increased engagement and ownership. This directly translates into increased successful implementation.
How much collaboration is in your consulting approach?
- Who does most of the work?
- When the project is over, who owns the implementation?
- How active is the client organization during the project?
If the answers to these three questions do not suggest full collaboration, consider re-contracting to increase involvement, engagement, and participation. The collaboration will pay off in improved and smoother implementation, a higher degree of project success, and often, longer term relationships.
Nancy Brown-Johnston has worked in the field of training and organization development in many companies around the world, including General Motors, Saturn Corporation, the US Army, and Delphi Automotive Systems. Nancy co-founded and served as the director of Saturn Consulting Services (SCS), where she led the development of the SCS courses. She also managed the marketing and consulting services to more than 200 external customers, including Chevrolet, Opel, Saab, Delphi Automotive Systems, the U.S. Army, U.S.P.S., and Zeneca Ag Products.
The TripleWin Academy’s Professional Development Program provides theories, models and skill development in problem solving and collaborative consulting. For more information, see www.triplewin.ch
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