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#559: Beware of the Duct Tape Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 5, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 5, 2011
As consultants we advise our clients to develop streamlined, repeatable processes where possible. As consultants, we pride ourselves on providing customized solutions for each of our client needs. Isn't this a bit hypocritical?

Well, that's a loaded question, but you do have a point worth exploring. First, recommending streamlining of a process makes sense if it provides the outputs and outcomes a client wants for their process or service at the appropriate efficiency and cost. There is nothing wrong with developing efficient, repeatable processes if this is what is needed.

Alternatively, customized solutions are appropriate where there is a highly variable environment, a high degree of freedom in the solution, and limited rules governing the conditions under which you can develop the solution. There is a continuum between a totally customized solution (assuming the client judges it worthy of time and budget) and a cut and paste solution resurrected from one of your prior clients. Every consultant owes every client the respect of thoroughly evaluating needs and presenting alternative approaches to solve the problem at hand.

What clients don't deserve is a "duct tape" solution. Duct tape is strong, flexible, durable, and can be applied in endless ways to "solve" almost any problem. There are consultants who have a few limited tools that meet these characteristics and propose to use them for almost every problem. Like duct tape, the reason they don't solve the problem at hand is because you didn't use enough of it. If a client isn't satisfied, there are always more assessments, more interviews, more process models, more PowerPoint, more pilot studies, more benchmarking, etc. The solution is rarely satisfying in the end.

Tip: Consultants should have processes they can reuse but they need to be grounded in business and management theory and proven to work in various cultures and business conditions. Don't get a reputation of being a "duct tape" consultant who doesn't have the range of tools and experience to provide competent and appropriate solutions.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consulting process  consulting skills  consulting tools  engagement management  performance improvement  professionalism  reputation  your consulting practice 

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