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#981: Know Your Client's History

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 06, 2009
Updated: Friday, February 06, 2009
I recently had an epiphany when I sat down with a client's bookkeeper of more than 30 years. She told me about the culture and history of the company and it gave me insights that I never would have gotten talking to my client sponsor, who had only been at the company for a few years.

Thanks for sharing this nugget of wisdom. As consultants, we often consider our job is to address the presenting issue in the here and now. We, and often our client, neglect to fully appreciate the powerful effect that the residual culture, processes and institutional memory from years ago exerts on how an organization operates today. Given that a professional consulting engagement includes understanding the full context in which our recommendations are being made, we should not forget time as a key dimension of our environmental scan.

Tip: Build in an historical assessment as part of your environmental scan. Ask your client sponsor which employees, maybe even employees who no longer work for the organization, have the institutional memory. To the extent time is available, ask to see old newsletters and company planning and operational summaries. Board minutes that describe strategic thrusts on which the organization was built can provide insight into how it might be amenable, or resistant, to changes that you are about to suggest. You are likely to find out things that even your client sponsor doesn't know.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  consulting process  customer understanding  learning  planning 

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