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#958: Proper Nomenclature for Consulting Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 6, 2009
It is frustrating to have a client defeat your best efforts to maintain consistency in naming work products and project activities. Should I push this further?

Consistent and deliberate language and nomenclature is an important function you can serve for managing your own engagements but also has significant value for your client. Have you ever startedwork with a client and heard them refer to "the green report" or "Dave's speech." This makes it hard to appreciate the nature or history of important documents or contributions to the culture or operations of an organization. As a consultant, you have an opportunity to recommend the importance of naming work activities or products in a way that, years later, will provide proper context for understanding.

Also important is the use of clear and consistent language in activities such as organizational change projects. A recent project had various people calling the effort "the change project," "the transformation," "the transition," or "Rob's work team's project." Each of these carries different connotations. Therefore, the perceptions of the activities and work products (including the product that might be called "the transition report") are different. This is not what you want as a consultant trying to align the strategy, operation and culture of an organization.

Tip: At the start of an engagement, discuss with your client the importance of language and terminology. Discuss key terms and processes you might use to reach consensus on nomenclature. Talk with staff about why they prefer some terms over others and how they feel about terms you have recommended. Help your clients use language to reinforce the impact of organizational change on sustained and clearly accepted activities and work products.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consultant role 

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