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#551: Recognize That Every Tool or Theory Has Its Limits

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 25, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 25, 2011
I am having a difference of opinion with my client about the "best" tool to use for the problem we are addressing. They want to use a tool that is specific to the problem and I am advocating using a tool that is can address the immediate as well as other issues. Is there some guidance (not saying she or I am right) or should I just adopt the "client is right" position?

This comes up more often than you would expect. Traditionally, clients describe the desired outcome and expect their expert advisor to identify and execute the best approach to reaching that objective. However, there are many competent and experienced managers who can, and in most cases should, be an integral part of selecting a solution approach. That said, your client is appropriate in being a part of selecting the tool you use to implement change.

The second part of this decision is the evaluation of whether a particular tool is "right" for the problem at hand. We all carry the bias of our experience and repeated success with a particular theory, tool or approach strengthens our preference to use that tool. As the saying goes, "To a child with a hammer, every problem is a nail." Conversely, failures (by ourselves or others) of a particular approach harden our resistance to a particular tool. We are often unaware of our preferences and reluctance to use suggestions by others, particularly when we are the one that will be asked to use it. Your familiarity with and capability to use (or lack thereof) a tool should be part of the discussion with your client.

Finally, both of you would benefit from including in your decision the concept of what do you really need this tool to do at this time for this problem. It is easy to disparage another tool or approach because it is "not robust" or "lacks validity" in this area or that. As the saying goes, "If a hammer drives a nail well, don't condemn it for not being able to drive a screw." Because of their range of experience with tools and approaches, consultants tend toward the comprehensive over the simple.

Tip: Recognize these perspectives and biases, in both of you, and settle on the approach that will get the job done that the client wants. You can make your case for your approach but recognize that the client and staff will live with the results.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  recommendations 

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