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#115: Demographics Can Hinder Consulting Team Alignment

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 21, 2009
I serve as engagement manager and make final decisions on our project approach, but some of the younger members of my team consistently push back on selecting strategy and tactics. Is it reasonable to expect that consulting team members recognize that we do projects a certain way or should I be more accommodating?

There are two issues here. The first is that having one "company way" to structure or execute projects may constrain you from delivering the best service to your clients. Each project has its own circumstances and preselecting an approach because you prefer it is inappropriate. In consulting, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The second, and possibly more significant, issue is the role demographics and perspective may play in this repeating scenario. If your partners differ in age, ethnicity, or gender (to pick just a few elements of diversity), it may well be that you approach consulting from an entirely different perspective. Take strategy formulation as an example. Your perspective can be on (ref Mintzberg) strategy as a plan, pattern, position, perspective, or ploy, and your approach could fall into one of the ten schools of strategy formation. Demographics influences your preferences for one approach over another (this presumes that strategy is even an appropriate approach for an organization). At the risk of generalizing, men tend toward mechanistic planning or positioning schools and women tend toward entrepreneurial or cultural schools. Older consultants may see the more orderly power or configuration school as the "obvious" construct, while younger consultants may favor cognitive or learning schools. This dynamic may also play out in your alignment with your clients if you have significant demographic differences with them.

Tip: Before you get to discussing engagement approaches, explore the constructs underlying your views of organizations and intervention. How do you see the roles of the consultant (advisor or partner), the use of information (confidentiality or full disclosure), the planning construct (analytical or cultural), client involvement (consultant turnkey or participative process), and timing (long windup grounded in full diagnosis or quick wins through rapid results processes)? When you understand your partners' (and client's) frame of mind, you'll have a better appreciation for how to align your engagement approaches.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  customer understanding  planning  product development  teaming 

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