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#108: Don't Start All Engagements from Scratch

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Can you provide some advice on how much to rely on client-provided reports from prior consultants' or internal staff work? If the prior recommendations were not implemented, how good can the assessments and recommendations be?

There are at least three issues here. First, don't link the lack of implementation to the quality of consultant analysis and recommendations. It may be that the client's circumstances or personnel changed before implementation could occur, or the needed investment was overruled higher in the organization. Second, the client can advise you on whether the previous work is or is not appropriate as a starting point or a complement to your work. There may be parts of the diagnosis that are great but the recommendations were unrealistic, or the engagement was expanded into areas for which the consultant was unqualified to perform. Use your judgment to evaluate the quality of each work product. Third, some consultants have aggravated clients to the point of being shown the door after providing superior service. The same recommendations coming from another advisor would be more readily accepted. How many of us have been asked in to pick up where another highly-regarded consultant has been asked to leave?

All these circumstances may indicate the relationship you are likely to have with this client and the likelihood of your own recommendations being implemented. Make sure you talk to your client about prior improvement efforts and why they did or did not succeed.

Tip: The client selected you for your judgment, experience and approach to addressing the organization’s issues. Ask for all information available, generated by both client staff and external consultants, that might provide insight, including historical perspective into your engagement. Although some clients may encourage you to use prior work, in which they have invested significant (and probably perceived as low or no return on investment), find a way to evaluate and use it within your stated project framework. Do you want the client to evaluate your effectiveness based on work done by another consultant?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  consulting process  engagement management  planning  recommendations 

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