How to be a consultant and run a successful assignment


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This presentation on the consulting process takes you through the main steps in running a consulting job and thus make sure you leave behind happy client - this is from the series of posts at the 1stoutsource Business Forum

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  • Although a lot of the selling process inevitably is going on in the early stages it is important to realise that the assignment has effectively started in this initial stages – this is why it is poor practice to have consulting ‘sold’ by account managers and consulting practice leads without the actual consultant doing the work being present.
  • What is the client doing to maintain the problem the problem What are other within the organisation doing to maintain this problem Make sure that the client is involved in the diagnosis – starts the process or learning and buy-in Describe the technical/business problem in process and system terms – how is it being managed. Understanding how the problem is being maintained can point us in the direction of how the restraining forces may be loosened
  • Often we as consultants are asked to look at a problem that looks like a hard system problem – procedures missing for example or a new IT system not working – it is possible to get the procedures and processes working but fail to meet the end task. The processual interactions are in fact often at the core of the organisational failing and must be accounted for – consultants must ensure the total field of the problem is addressed. Clients will often resist this insisting on the technical aspects of the solution as they are more comfortable with this aspect and by so doing are able to avoid affective responses.
  • In terms of data and presentation clients sometimes treat the amount of data collected as a surrogate for the degree of effort – its best to put data in the end document to make clear what was considered before it was weaned out of the main presentation as not relevant. Some indications of potential solutions can be floated but you do not know the organisation as well as those present – they will generally have many more ideas once the problem is made clear.
  • Descriptive not Judgemental Focused not Global
  • How to be a consultant and run a successful assignment

    1. 1. The Consulting Process Royston E Morgan The BizFace Community
    2. 2. Objectives <ul><li>To understand the key steps in the consulting engagement process and have practical experience of these using the case material </li></ul>
    3. 3. Stages in the Consulting Process <ul><li>Gaining Entry </li></ul><ul><li>Preliminary Problem Diagnosis </li></ul><ul><li>Contracting </li></ul><ul><li>Diagnosis </li></ul><ul><li>Collecting and Collating Data </li></ul><ul><li>Reporting Back </li></ul>
    4. 4. OD Problem solving cycle Diagnosis Design Implementation TIME The approach to the problem and preliminary diagnosis achieved. Objectives and constraints devised Options for solution are devised and selected - options modelled Implementation strategy devised plan and schedule drawn up
    5. 5. Describe & model Objectives for change Measures for objectives Options Model options & Select Plan the implementation Implement Problem awareness Entry and contracting Polar charts Ishikawa Causal-maps System maps Objective tree Brainstorming Process frameworks Process charting System maps Approach Doc Product breakdown Scheduling Cost benefit DCF Cash Flow Positioning FIT H&W model
    6. 6. The Consulting Process Next job Entry & Description Preliminary Diagnosis Contracting Diagnosis Data & Evidence Reporting Back Implement & Closure Preparation Context Proposal options Cause Focus definition problem Option select Change
    7. 7. Gaining Entry – much more than the terms of reference <ul><li>Discussion of Problem & Initial Scoping </li></ul><ul><li>Mutual Learning and Assessment of Match </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Can we work together? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I talking to the right person? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Reduction of Uncertainty </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High levels of uncertainty and suspicion can be present </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Contract requirement defined </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In terms of the division of responsibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In terms of the work division </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requirements for resources & access </li></ul></ul>Without a careful entry it is unlikely a mutual trust can be established and the real problem identified - misunderstandings can surface much later that can be very difficult to solve
    8. 8. Gaining Entry – Have I worked here before? <ul><li>A with X avoid false assumptions and leaping to conclusions </li></ul><ul><li>B with X take time to build relationship </li></ul><ul><li>A or B with Y emotion and anxiety will be high be ready for missiles </li></ul><ul><li>The initial stages are more about learning and relationship building and creating a productive client to consultant relationship </li></ul>A I have worked with this client before B This is my first visit to this client X I have been invited by the owner of the problem Y I have been imposed by person with power
    9. 9. We need to make ourselves familiar with the problem <ul><li>Be Familiar with type of problem - avoid off-the-shelf! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What products or services does the client produce? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who are their main competitors? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What processes and service approach is used? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Market imperatives or practices that are industry/sector specific </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Industry level issues or concerns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What's going on in the client (get background to other projects) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>During the entry meetings let the client do most of the talking – move from general to specific issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Suspend judgement, don’t jump to conclusions, don’t accept evoked problem as fact. </li></ul><ul><li>If Client has ‘decided’ on solution and what must be done now's the time to turn down the assignment (but what about your boss!! ed.) </li></ul>
    10. 10. What Questions need to be asked? <ul><li>What are the five key things you need to know from your first meeting? </li></ul>
    11. 11. Preliminary Problem Diagnosis (PPD) - Reconnaissance <ul><li>Current practice is for a short diagnostic stage (1-2 days) to present back to the client a deeper understanding. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually not charged but added to bill if go-ahead given </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If complex and substantial time must be charged for (avoid risk of freebie consulting) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nice approach is to do a survey </li></ul></ul><ul><li>During this stage assess attitudes to problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why do you think the organisation needs my help? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What ideas have been suggested already but not supported? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who should I see or what questions should I ask? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What would you recommend in my position (dangerous!!!) </li></ul></ul>
    12. 12. What is going on in the organisation? <ul><li>Areas of interest could be: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How are resources being used? (types numbers) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Processes and problems evident? (delays, errors, response rates) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Costs and volume of work </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Comparative work often a useful guide </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How does this organisation or department compare to its peers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In what ways is ‘it’ similar or contrasting to its peers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Main point is where the detailed analysis should be focused. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What approaches would be feasible or appropriate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What access and information will need to be organised </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Positions and directs the full assignment placing it within an agreed framework </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. PPD – formulates the proposed intervention <ul><li>The PPD is a proposal and the content demonstrates: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understanding of the problem and its importance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the proposed approach addresses THIS problem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the unique characteristics of your consultancy can deliver the solution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the work will be done: staff, skills timescales and outline plan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How the assignment will be financed (i.e. how much) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What additional opportunities or benefits brought by the proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In the real world put all the waffle in the appendices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>& don’t start with some obsequious special pleading in the intro </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Detailed tables and figures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>CV’s and case studies with relevant signposts to this assignment </li></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Contracting – making agreements explicit <ul><li>According to Cockman et al (1992) a good contract: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Defines the problem further </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Clarifies the work to be done and who is doing what </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoids unnecessary work on the wrong problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Defines the degrees of freedom for the consultant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gives the client an understanding of the way the consultant will work </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mutual expectations goals and control (reporting etc.) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The ground rules especially around confidentiality, ethics, legitimacy of differences </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Agreement is important </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Things left unsaid can cause problems later </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Better to cover all the points than leave to sort out later (they never are until the recriminations start) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Setting expectations and the acceptance criteria are important </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Diagnosis – the Heart of the Assignment <ul><li>The aim of the diagnostic phase is to clarify the problem </li></ul>A Puzzle has a solution A Problem may not have a solution but options Solve or recommend someone who can Number of courses of action Consultant assists client in choosing Not just one ‘correct’ solution Collect data and analyse Collect data and analyse
    16. 16. Redefinition is the most important consultant input <ul><li>Three Phases in the problem definition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Formulate several definitions of the problem (use STEP and levels of analysis – individual, team or organisational) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For each definition clarify underlying assumptions, implications and consequences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chose one that emphasises strengths whilst minimising weaknesses of definition </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The redefinition of the problem is important as in many cases faulty diagnosis by client can obscure a solution </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Faulty diagnosis may have perpetuated the problem </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The consultant should not accept the evoked problem until analysis has been done </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Once the problem is recognised often this can lead to a solution </li></ul></ul>Diagnosis will show how the problem is being maintained
    17. 17. Blake & Mouton offered four focal issues looking at the softer aspects <ul><li>A ‘comprehensive’ set of categories for diagnosing problems: </li></ul><ul><li>Power-Authority </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How power is exercised where does it reside and how authority is managed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Morale-Cohesion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Low motivation, lack of attachment or identity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Management thinks we are unimportant </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Norms and Standards </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cultural norms and hidden assumptions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Goals and Objectives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How the objectives of the organisation, groups and individual are related (or not) </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Diagnosis – Collecting Data <ul><ul><li>Systems & Procedures - How people are organised and regulated in order to get the job done </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Task - What must be done and why (is there a shared view?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Process - How the interactions take place between the actors </li></ul></ul>These must be balanced often one or two are in place and the third is aspect is failed Systems & procedures Tasks Processes Start Complete
    19. 19. A root cause analysis categories problems <ul><li>Four principal dimensions within an organisation reviewed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Material </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Machines </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Methods </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Can also include any dimensions that seem appropriate such as environment or external influences </li></ul><ul><li>Diagram is constructed asking ‘What problems are there in …’ </li></ul>
    20. 20. Root cause analysis – Ishikawa diagram Call backlog increasing Method Machine Materials People Environment Slow to answer phones No call follow Not trained new system System slow Upgrade missed No dedicated line FAQ’s not up to date Manuals not updated Cramped space Old furniture Short staffed Licence expired
    21. 21. Diagnosis is also about casual relationships <ul><li>The relationship between problems and symptoms </li></ul><ul><li>The relationship between symptoms and outcomes </li></ul><ul><li>Watch for options posed as problems </li></ul>This is sometimes not a simple process as conditions often influence each other Costs are too high Too many staff Over capacity Skill mix changed Tech changes Tech is old Skill mix wrong Slow adoption Empire building Expensive technology Lack of strategy Service too expensive Market share falling
    22. 22. From this mass (mess) of problems we need to find out what is important The urgency importance matrix Urgent Not Urgent Important Unimportant
    23. 23. Reporting Back – saying why the problem exists <ul><li>If the report back is to be successful the important aspects of the evidence from the diagnosis need to be emphasised </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most of the data will not be discussed at all (which can be a bit of a let down for the team but don’t mistake quantity for quality) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Data tables, analysis and stats go in the appendices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The issues to be covered: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Those that the client can change or affect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Important to the organisational performance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where some commitment to doing something is required </li></ul></ul>The prime task is to explain why the problem exists and the journey made in identifying it. This needs to be simplified, clear and shorn of all jargon.
    24. 24. Reporting Back - Meeting Outline (Block 1981) <ul><li>Run through the agenda (time budget etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Introduce team and roles </li></ul><ul><li>Restate the Contract and Agreed Objectives </li></ul><ul><li>Present the findings of the diagnosis </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss with client and ask for feedback </li></ul><ul><li>Present any recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Decisions and Next Steps </li></ul><ul><li>Temperature Check </li></ul>
    25. 25. Feeding Back: Style <ul><li>Be assertive and clear in the problem diagnosis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But not aggressive or neutral </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Focus on the problem description not on individual (s) </li></ul><ul><li>Never evaluate people </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Avoid this especially if you are probed </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Specific not Vague </li></ul><ul><li>Brief not Lengthy </li></ul><ul><li>Simple not Complicated </li></ul><ul><li>Plain English not Psychobabble </li></ul>A: There is a problem with call management in this organisation B: The service desk personnel cannot do their job and they are poorly trained. C: The call queue has risen by 50% in the last year mainly because the service staff have not been trained in the new software.
    26. 26. Questions