My partners have a running argument/discussion about whether our consulting firm is better off developing and refining our service lines or returning to the classic style of consulting where relationship-based personal service defined the profession. Some of us feel we provide better service when we can deliver evidence-based processes to our clients; others feel we should be letting the client lead on the approach. Is there an answer to this debate?
I suspect many professions evolve and generate this kind of debate over whether to move forward or return to former models. Your consulting firm is not the only one in which this discussion is taking place. Consulting has become competitive in its promotion of proprietary, research-based approaches, each firm asserting that it has unique knowledge, data or processes to improve a client's condition. This is fine, as long as the client gets to be a part of the design. Some clients have said that they feel like buying consulting services these days is like buying a house, except that they only get to pick existing houses rather than working with an architect to design their own. I suspect this "design" environment is what you mean when you talk about letting the client lead the approach.
Becoming enamored with our own approach, perspective and accomplishments is an occupational hazard as we become proficient in our professions. This is not limited to consulting. We would all benefit from stepping out of our silos and looking at the world from other perspectives. We shouldn't be relying on the same sources of information, advice or support. This should apply to we consultants as well as our clients. We should regularly check out other partners, different ways of approaching our work, and regularly confirm that we are not stuck doing things the same way when the market is calling for something new. Likewise, our clients should be looking at new ways of improving their business if the only consulting support is to take what the consulting firm offers from its own portfolio of appraoches. Tip:
Look at a short video
by John Jay, Executive Creative Director and Partner of the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency, in which he talks about how we get siloed and how this applies to both consultants and our clients. It is worth a few views and some discussion how you will take his advice and help your client do the same.© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA