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#220: Do You Really Have a Consulting Model?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 15, 2010
I am always amazed by the diversity of approaches consultants use in their work. However, it does concern me when these approaches seem to vary over time, with almost each implementation seeming to be different. Is this normal for consultants?

I can't comment on whether this is normal or not but my sense is that it is not a good practice. Each intervention in the management, governance, operations or culture of an organization should be tailored to the current needs of the organization. However, the core process of intervention should be standardized, for three reasons. First, every change strategy should be a scientific experiment, a hypothesis-driven approach to reach an objective. If the process can be codified (allowing for necessary adaptation to local conditions and needs), it can be replicated and tested for efficacy.

Second, a codified and tested process can be continually improved. The common complaint about the book In Search of Excellence and other anthologies of "great companies” is that they are backward looking cases where the strategies were connected to outcomes without testing the specific strategy for efficacy. We have to be able to describe a process before we can predict its results, and only then can we develop the capability to control it.

Third, consistency and simplicity in a process increase your ability as a consultant to effectively communicate its value to clients and staff. If I understand the theoretical foundations, inherent values and effort required to implement a change process, I am more comfortable implementing it in my organization. Clients are right when they complain about consulting processes that are so theoretical and confusing that they are of little interest or perceived value. If you can't express the premise of your change model in 30 seconds, then you have no business using it.

Tip: Take any one of your intervention processes and commit it to paper, either through prose or (better) a process flow chart. Give it to a colleague for a client and see whether they understand it and could replicate it. Don’t worry about "giving away trade secrets." First of all, your process itself is probably not that unique. Second, like a good cook, your finished product owes a lot to your skills in implementation, regardless of who uses the same recipe.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  performance improvement  planning  practice management 

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