How much time should I spend with client staff beyond the company leadership and department heads?
This depends on the nature of your engagement, but it is hard to imagine many engagements that would not significantly benefit from conversations with non-executives. For many consultants conducting an organizational diagnostic, the first people they talk to after the client sponsor is the head of HR and the receptionist. Especially if staff have been around a long time, they are likely to have a bead on the soul of an organization. Initial conversations with them are unlikely to be biased by executive directives if you can establish rapport early and build a relationship. In some cases, the long term employees have been through several leadership teams or executives and can provide context that your sponsor can't.Tip:
Don’t get caught in the trap of just interviewing senior staff. Make it clear to your sponsor that spending time with staff at all levels is critical to understanding organizational culture, seeing things about the organization possibly hidden to those in the executive suite, and building key allies for implementing any change initiatives. Work with your sponsor to develop a list of people to talk to but also develop your own list of influencers and enablers specifically among non-executive staff. Vigorously develop and maintain relationships with these staff and share any nonproprietary information about how the project is going and vet your findings and recommendations as appropriate. Your work product will be substantially more effective because of the diversity of input.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA