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#553: How to Tell if a Client's Operation is Under Control

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We are often brought into a client's organization to address a "crisis" that may or may not be hiding a set of other problems. To limit being tagged with being "unable to fix" a problem we didn't see was tied to the one we promised to solve, how can a consultant know - before being let in to conduct a diagnosis - whether the problem set is more serious than presented by the client?

Interesting question and one of which consultant should take note. Most of the time, clients specify their needs, the consultant lays out an approach, and the terms of an engagement are agreed to and activity started. Missing from this process is the due diligence to determine the scope of the problem, whether it hides other problems and whether the entire system is really under control or not. Presuming that general organizational health is unknowable without a (fee paid) diagnostic task is wrong.

Peter Drucker said that you can tell how well an organization is managed by simply looking at its daily flow of operations. A well-managed organization flows quietly, smoothly and predictably. An organization out of control is characterized by recurring crises, stop and start flows, and inconclusive decisions. A sharp eye on a walk though of the office or factory with your prospective client should tell you a lot about the symptoms of effective systems and processes. Most of us are not even looking for these symptoms on our walk through - or don't even ask for a full tour before we start to negotiate what wonderful things we can do.

Tip: Put on your detective hat before you go for that first or second visit. Make sure you get the full tour so you have all the information you need to make a cogent evaluation and recommendation of your engagement process and expected outcomes. Finally, start building a "pre-negotiation investigation" process based on a comprehensive model of organizations (e.g., the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is a good place to start).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  consulting process  customer understanding  meeting preparation  performance improvement  prospect 

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