Looking back across two decades of consulting clients shows a range in success. Some clients were both committed to change and others were less so, and still others varied in their ability to change. How does a consultant know which prospective clients are worth the effort to support?
This is a factor in consulting most of us never consider. Clients assume that if they are facing a crisis or a lull in performance that a good consultant can improve things. Consultants also assume that if their experience and skills are appropriate, then they should be able to help just about any client. There is a critical logical deficit in this thinking that every consultant should think about before taking on a client.
Not every organization is in a position to take a consultant's advice or, even if they are listening, to implement and sustain such advice. The leadership needs a certain level of awareness to understand what improvements are possible, and the organization needs a certain level of operational performance to implement recommendations. Not all organizations are in this position. Whether leadership is incapable or unwilling to talk about leadership, strategic or cultural issues or the organization functionally is not in a position to implement, there are some clients who will not improve despite your best efforts.
Perhaps more important is your helping establish the social and operational foundation before you suggest sweeping performance improvements. If the client is willing to accept that change may require hard work on personal and social issues and to put in place operational processes that make it possible to even see how your recommendations would apply, then you have a chance of doing good. If your prospect is not even willing to prepare the ground for your change recommendations, then this organization is unlikely to benefit from your talents.Tip:
Consider a "Goldilocks" strategy. Organizations that are too strong (e.g., too flush with cash and on a growth tear) may be unwilling to accommodate improvement recommendations because they fear losing their streak. Organizations that are too weak in leadership, culture or operations may be unaware or unwilling to profit from your help. Your ability to best help is with organizations that are "just right."© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA