Your Next - and Best - Year as a Consultant


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Like everyone else, we are prone to see the approaching new year as an opportunity to reflect and make promises to be better yet. But the pressure is even greater for us, since our whole field is about eflection and change! So whether you are a novice trying to get started, an accomplished consultant hoping to expand your work, or a seasoned practitioner seeking the capstone to a long career, let's take the time to look at how we all can advance our practice.

Building on 35 years of experience with hundreds of client engagements, Jerry Talley will suggest some of the road maps we all can use to move along in our journey to becoming the consultant we want to be. We will (1) enumerate the elements of a successful consulting practice, (2) define the essential activity that distinguishes consulting from simple expertise, (3) map out the whole field of OD, and (4) identify the typical areas and patterns for professional development. In short, figure out where you are...and where you could be in 2013.

Bio: Jerry L. Talley was one of the founders of SBODN in 1987. His 35 years of consulting has spanned over 350 engagements with clients from public sector, for profit, and not-for-profit ventures. He has worked in high-tech, manufacturing, hospitality, pharmaceuticals, publishing, entertainment and broadcasting, the military, health care, public utilities, construction, aerospace, higher education, banking and finance, foods, and major consulting houses.

Jerry also runs a small group for aspiring consultants hoping to raise the quality and quantity of their practice.

Prior to starting his consulting practice, he taught for 18 years at Stanford University (the source of his PhD). He also had a practice as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

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Your Next - and Best - Year as a Consultant

  1. 1. Your Next -- and Best -- Year as a ConsultantSBODN - December 2012Jerry L. Talley ~~ ~~ (650) 967-1444 A. A Map of Your Practice This is a macro process map for hypothetical consulting business; I offered it back then as a summary of key work activities that make up a consulting practice. 1. Defining Your Practice Balancing • Intention • Capability • Market Acceptance 2. Finding Clients • Represent the richness and uniqueness of your offering, • Efficiently. • Remaining authentic. 3. Securing the Work • Create enough structure to get traction • Leave enough openness to let the engagement evolve 4. Delivering the Service • Delivering perceived value within the promised contract • Give voice to collective (and often unpopular) wisdom. 5. Supporting the Effort • Ensuring service delivery does not stumble • Keeping the evolving contract visible and consensual
  2. 2. B. The Vision of Your Practice: Vendor or Consultant 1. The distinction a. Vendor (1) Delivers a well-developed, relatively constant product (2) Hired when needs are known (3) Real value is the intervention (4) Intervention is predictable and managed (5) The practitioner and client have a transaction (6) Pricing is usually competitive and fixed b. Consultant (1) Uses a variable process to develop a novel intervention (2) Hired when the need is unclear but still urgent (3) Real value is in the diagnosis (4) Intervention is emergent and orchestrated (5) The practitioner and client create a relationship (6) Pricing is open and compared to cost of symptoms 2. The issues a. Avoid being a vendor when the real need is for a consultant. (1) Time management problems could signal a skill deficit, or... (a) a chaotic work processes needing comprehensive redesign, (b) jumbled product offering that turns "customer service" into a constant scramble, (c) a poor corporate strategy which turns client acquisition into a Herculean task, (d) poor management practices that leave everyone essentially running their own business, (e) a bonus structure that contradicts the stated strategic objectives, (f) a culture that honors the "cowboy project manager" despite high need for alignment and coordination. b. Avoid being a consultant when the real need is for a vendor. A good consulting strategy is to do whats obviously needed and then see why it didnt work.
  3. 3. (1) Contracting with a consultant is sometimes a strategy for avoiding an obvious need. (a) Sometimes you just need to train people how to manage projects correctly. (b) Sometimes you need to clear away some obvious issues to see whats left (such as cultural differences, or managing across generations) (c) Sometimes the senior executive simply needs to fire someone! c. Be clear.. (1) ..about the role you want to play in a particular engagement. (2) ..about which role you have in the eyes of your client. d. The contracting and planning phases of the work may pull you toward being a vendor. (1) The client wants you to be a consultant (open scope and budget), (2) ..but the contracting agent wants a breakdown of hours per phase with a NTE budget estimate. e. In the same engagement, your role may shift from consultant to vendor and back.C. The Scope of Your Practice: The Map of OD
  4. 4. D. Patterns of Growth 1. Whats your entry point into the field? What is your initial offering? a. Management 101 b. Better Meeting Skills c. Creativity for the Dull and Uninspired d. Managing Your Warehouse More Efficiently e. More Effective Public Speaking 2. What areas of practice can you bridge to with minimal effort? a. Moving from work groups to project teams b. Jumping from high-tech to working with foundations. 3. What areas of practice can you bridge to through partnering or professional alliances? a. Jumping from problem solving to process improvement (lite) b. Moving from for-profit firms to larger not-for-profit organizations c. Jumping to work in the biotech field after several years working in high-tech manufacturing. 4. What areas of practice can you bridge to through training or education? a. Learning Six Sigma procedures and tools b. Learning project management principles c. Learning FDA or OSHA regulatory requirements. 5. What areas of practice are you always going to refer to others? 6. Learn to learn from your engagement a. Use survey as a preamble to a course (1) Then propose giving an expanded version of that survey to the whole company b. Teach a course on project management only to full project teams (1) Follow up a course with more targeted coaching c. Use facilitation skills to run focus groups as a strategy for organizational assessment d. Teach to a difference audience; (1) Move from Proj Mgmt with high-tech to PM in health care. e. Look for complementary partnerships
  5. 5. (1) Michael Singh example f. Look for opportunities to "step up" or "step sideways"E. Areas for GrowthF. The Consultants Talent for Talk 1. Our most powerful tool is conversation, in all its variety. a. We are often drawn to speaking as an expert. (1) Finding that 7-second elevator pitch seduces us into focusing on our offering. (2) When we try to "productize our practice" we essentially package our expertise. (3) Our clients pull for solutions and results, and we fall to the temptation to offer answers and strategies. b. We end up offering solutions without ever having explored the problem. (1) If the relationship and the timing are not just right, we risk being irrelevant, even arrogant. 2. Seeding Insight 3. Given the pressure to prove the ROI of our effort, to "productize" our work, we sometimes abandon what is perhaps the unique value of organizational development consulting: a. To bring fresh eyes to the concerns of our clients b. To help clients understand their own role in unconsciously creating their own reality, even when they deeply prefer something different. c. To help the client develop fresh eyes of their own.
  6. 6. A Macro Map Strategic Staff Defining Your Visioning Planning Development PracticeforConsultingReturn or Next Sales Finding Networking Marketing Calls Clients Preparing Project Securing the Contracting Work Proposals Planning And what about the range of Client Service Close Delivering the Entry Delivery Down Service services? IT & Supporting Project Production Billing Management the Effort Support
  7. 7. Vendor Consultant • Use a variable process to• Delivers a well-developed, develop a novel interventionrelatively constant product • Hired when the need is• Hired when needs are known unclear but urgent• Value is in the intervention • Value is in the diagnosis• Intervention is predictable • Intervention is emergent andand managed orchestrated• The practitioner and client • The practitioner and clienthave a transaction create a relationship• Pricing is usually competitive • Pricing is open and comparedand fixed to cost of symptoms Return or Map or Next
  8. 8. Board Visioning:A Map Cultural Transformation (Engagement, quality, BPM, Development Strategic Planning Values etc.)of OD ChangeReturnNext Management FamilyJLTs map Board of Owned Business Directors Executive Team Development: leadership styles, decision- making, conflict, Financial communication, problem solving, setting the culture, etc. Community Executive Coaching Internal OD Management Practitioner: Critical organizational skill Development Assessment, development: brokering, integration Problem solving, decision- Team making, meeting mgmt, innovation, management, Building OD budgeting, etc. Work groups, Project teams, etc. Cross-functional team development Program Development: TQM, SMTs, Proj Mgmt, Portfolio Mgmt, etc. Social issues: Work Process Design: Environmental Process Improvement, responsibility, diversity, Six Sigma, Lean, BPM, gender equality CPI, etc. Organizational Assessment: surveys, interviews, observation, focus groups, etc.
  9. 9. Patterns of GrowthReturn or Next • Sales Business • Engineering Program Functional Management For example, • COO role Expertise Teaching Project Management (as an expert) • SW development >> Troubleshooting projects (as a service) >> Advising on structuring a PMO organization • Team Building >> Advising on structuring an organization • 360° Surveys • Coaching 1 Focused • Strategic Planning • System deployment Experience Service in related areas may Broad Focused overlap Partnering Spectrum Service with.. Consulting 2 Focused Training Service in • Systems thinking related areas • Organizational assessment • Problem clarification • Brokering a team for large 3 scale effort • Trusted executive advisor • Project Management • Time Management 4 Topical • Problem Solving • Strategic Planning 5 Expert • Individual assessment • Survey technology • Graphic recording
  10. 10. Sales Marketing • Project Mgmt • Process Improvement Domain • Orgl culture Plan • Group Process Knowledge Projects Business • Change Mgmt • Etc. Proposal EfficiencyContracting Writing Temperament Tracking & Billing Individuals Skills & Capabilities Surveys Areas for Growth Relationships Return Interviewing Groups Teams Teaching Diagnostic Prowess Work Writing Tools Processes Friendship Talk Coaching Structures Informal Influence Meetings Political Networks Obligation Alliances Facilitation Market Cultures environment
  11. 11. Talk Types Goal Definition / Rhythm Relationship Values Process Return or Top2 Challenge Help the client see Speak to next step in Focus on listening; Clients understanding Both intimate and what they cannot ... clients awareness Patience, Client- reflecting back clients is the problem ... and distant; both "on their and see their role in rather than next step in focused, Curious understanding; follow the the opportunity side" and neutral creating their distress the problem energy Creating Insight Provides guideposts, Create a safe Listen for underlying Reframe the Problem is emergent; Subordinate reconnaissance, but container for meaning; unspoken clients model of looking for clients your own cannot make the ambiguity, complexity, assumptions; unseen the world new understanding opinion journey and anxiety options Client accepts you as an Expert sets the Transfer of Expert Problem is clear Clients ability expert (Teacher, Valid expertise, agenda; questions information and Advice ... and contained to understand Auditor); sees fair exchange asked; questions advice themselves as NOT answered Professional Find a solution Leverage Divergent at start, Situational; typically Thorough, Open discussion; Problem to a shared expertise and but convergent at group of equals; Creative, possibly a template Solving problem experience the end mild authority figure Empirical for the work Primarily one-way; only Transmission and Delegation of Contextual; Efficiency, Give the target Giving seeking acceptance of assignments and clear Respect, Justice, the information Direction acknowledgement assignments responsibilities hierarchy Relevance they need coming back Reinforce the Balancing me Equals; confounded Connection, Safety, Process more Friends Back and forth; friendship; fill in and we, task by other unequal Feeling heard, important than Talking emergent focus the gaps in time and social relationships Support, Fairness content