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#243: Using Staff Input

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Clients hire me for my expertise and independence but many feel I should base my recommendations from talking to the people in the organization first. I feel it's generally a waste of time. What do you recommend?

I understand your perspective about maintaining your independence and objectivity. However, independence does not mean ignoring your due diligence in collecting information and opinions from staff. It is important to meet with two types of people, (1) those with historical perspective and data, and (2) those who will be important in implementing your recommendations. Your experience comes in play by interpreting how accurate and relevant you judge their perspectives to be. Here is where you may need to check with a range of people to determine where the facts are. People's opinions are valid whether you agree with them or not, but you need to know them because these are the context in which your recommendations will be received.

A formal process to gather information can help if you are inclined to consider staff opinions and understanding of the facts to be of little use to your engagement. First, develop a standard list of a dozen questions that require very specific responses (e.g., Yes/No, A/B/C/D,) and uses them as talking points for pointed interviews with staff. These might be questions like, "Imagine it's your money, your organization. What would you do in this situation?" Another might be, "What are the 3 things/actions/directions you feel will most benefit the organization?" Use these to get to a competent data source to which you can then apply your expertise.

Tip: Work this out with your client. Be clear as to the extent you plan to base your findings and recommendations on staff input versus your own opinion. Don't hide this because when staff hear youre recommendations and they are based on the exclusion of their input, the likelihood of full implementation goes way down, which was not your intent.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  consulting process  customer understanding  goodwill 

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Mary Adams CMC says...
Posted Thursday, February 18, 2010
I am stunned by this question for two reasons:

How would you make any recommendations in an organization without getting to know how it works? Just by looking at data or by talking to senior managers? Then you will just be reinforcing the status quo. Our most valuable input is from people on the front lines of a business and external stakeholders. I don't think I would take an assignment where we could not speak with people (although I prefer open questions to a survey approach).

Secondly, as Mark points out, how are you or your client going to implement your recommendations if their people have been shut out of the process? Expect them to change because you said so? Good luck with that.
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