Consulting – a high value-added support practice

in Agile, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Process Management, Consulting, Courses, Digital Transformation, Management, Project Management

This is the third part of my series on the three pillars of change support: facilitation, coaching and consulting. Although this article can be read as a stand-alone, for those who want a more in-depth understanding, you can find the first part on facilitation here : The three pillars of support: Facilitation, Consulting and Coaching

Consulting is a professional service offered to companies to address specific challenges, achieve defined objectives or improve organizational performance.

The consultant uses his or her knowledge, skills and experience to offer ideas, recommendations and solutions tailored to the company’s unique needs and objectives. The consulting process typically involves in-depth analysis, approach planning and implementation support, with the ultimate aim of helping the company improve the effectiveness, efficiency and overall success of its activities.

Throughout the consulting engagement, the consultant works closely with the company, acting as a trusted advisor and partner in solving complex problems, driving change and achieving the desired results. Consulting covers diverse sectors, disciplines and contexts, encompassing areas such as management, strategy, operations, technology, human resources and organizational development.

Effective consulting requires a combination of technical expertise, interpersonal skills and domain understanding, as well as a commitment to integrity, professionalism and corporate objectives.

As such, consulting plays a vital role in helping companies overcome challenges, seize opportunities and achieve sustainable growth and success.

The consultant’s responsibilities

Consultants need to understand the distinction between delivering tangible results (output) and achieving significant results (outcome) for their customers. This means not just delivering products or services, but committing to achieving end goals that bring real value to the company. Drawing on Peter Block’s ideas in “Flawless Consulting”, consultants need to understand the distinction between achieving tangible results and guaranteeing meaningful outcomes for their clients.

Managing expectations

Effective management of customer expectations is essential to fostering trust and satisfaction throughout the consulting engagement. Jerry Weinberg, in “The Secrets of Consulting,” stresses the importance of effectively managing customer expectations to create a climate of trust and satisfaction throughout the consulting engagement.

To effectively manage customer expectations, consultants must adopt a proactive and transparent approach. It’s important to maintain open and regular communication with the customer to keep stakeholders informed of progress, challenges and adjustments. By providing frequent updates and dealing quickly with potential problems, the consultant can avoid misunderstandings and frustrations, helping to build customer confidence and satisfaction.

The process

The consultant is responsible for the entire consulting process, from initial planning to implementation and evaluation of results. According to John Kotter in “Leading Change”, the consultant is responsible not only for delivering results, but also for guiding customers through the change process, taking charge of the journey towards achieving the desired results.

They need to take charge of every stage of the process, working closely with customers to ensure that objectives are met effectively and efficiently. This involves directing the team’s efforts, coordinating activities and ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned with the objectives and expected results.

Initial assessment and definition of objectives

The initial assessment and definition of objectives are the first steps in the consultative process. During this phase, the consultant works closely with the company to understand its needs, challenges and specific objectives. This step is essential to establish a solid foundation and align consulting efforts with the company’s strategic priorities.

Obtain the necessary resources

Once the objectives have been defined, the consultant has to request the resources needed to achieve them. This means identifying the skills, tools and technologies needed, and planning and coordinating their optimal use.

Communication and stakeholder management

Transparent communication and stakeholder management are essential elements of the consultative process. The consultant must establish and maintain open and collaborative relationships with all stakeholders involved in the consulting engagement. This means communicating regularly on progress made, expected results and challenges encountered, while listening to stakeholders’ concerns and feedback.

Adaptability and flexibility of approach

Adaptability and flexibility are essential qualities for success in the consultative process. Consultants must be ready to adjust their approach to changing circumstances, new information or customer feedback. This may involve modifying strategies, action plans or methodologies to adapt to changing business needs. An adaptive and flexible approach ensures that the consultative process remains relevant and effective, even in a dynamic and constantly changing environment.

Consultant value

More than simply adding another resource to the project, the consultant brings significant and diversified value to the client company. The consultant’s contribution is not limited to his external presence or his ability to supply the workforce. On the contrary, the consultant embodies a source of methodological expertise, in-depth knowledge of his field of intervention and inspiration for innovation and change.

Does the consultant need to know “everything” about the company, its product or its specific processes? It is rare for an external consultant to have exhaustive knowledge of all the internal aspects of a company at the outset of an engagement. However, the consultant’s value lies in other areas of expertise that can compensate for this lack of specific knowledge.

First of all, the consultant’s methodological skills are of paramount importance. The consultant brings with him proven frameworks, tools and approaches for tackling the problems and challenges facing companies. Its ability to apply these methodologies effectively helps to structure and guide the problem-solving process, even in the absence of in-depth knowledge of the company’s internal details.

In addition, consultants are often experts in their field, with in-depth knowledge of best practices and market trends. His experience enables him to quickly identify opportunities for improvement and recommend innovative solutions tailored to the specific situation of the client company.

Another aspect of the consultant’s value lies in his or her ability to transpose practices and ideas from other fields or industries to the client company. With an external perspective, the consultant can bring fresh eyes and innovative ideas that can inspire change and growth within the organization.

Challenges in consulting

While consulting offers many opportunities, it also faces a number of challenges that can hamper the success of projects.

It sometimes happens that a company hires a consultant for his specific expertise, but then limits his scope of action or ignores his recommendations. This conflict between the search for expertise and the expectations of intervention can hamper the consultant’s ability to bring full added value to the project.

A major challenge in many consulting projects is resistance to change, even after stakeholders have initially expressed their conceptual agreement. Sometimes, at the last minute, the company refuses to adopt proposed changes deemed too revolutionary.

Managing other external consultants

In large projects involving several external consultants, the task of managing the other participants can be particularly tricky. Risks include lack of clarity as to the authority of the appointed consultant, non-compliance with his recommendations by other stakeholders, and even disloyal behavior on the part of some competing experts.

Is the appointed consultant really empowered to fully represent the customer’s interests and needs vis-à-vis other external consultants? Do other external consultants respect the recommendations and decisions made by the authorized consultant?

Bias effects can also occur, such as the unfair management of competing experts in order to further one’s own interests or to damage the reputation of the appointed consultant.

These challenges, among others, highlight the complexity of consulting work, and underline the importance for consultants to navigate carefully in situations where stakeholder interests may be divergent or conflicting.

A personal experience

As part of my professional experience with an SME, I had the opportunity to lead a major product and organizational transformation. My involvement in this project stemmed from a number of factors: I had in-depth expertise in the specific field concerned by the transformation, I have a good command of methodology which helps me to structure the change process effectively and efficiently. Finally, my past experience in a very similar project gave me a strong argument for commitment.

An underlying objective of my involvement was to enable the company to get through this period of change with as little disruption as possible. Recognizing that transitions can sometimes be difficult, especially when they involve technological aspects, I saw my role not only as that of a guide through the change process, but also as that of a catalyst to symbolically mark the end of this difficult phase once the project was completed. In doing so, I aimed to free the team from any residual reluctance and facilitate the adoption and use of the new organization with the new solution.

How did it go? Very well, naturally 😊There were hard times, difficult choices to be made, dealing with predictable but unpleasant events like team turnover, but also unexpected situations that demanded flexibility from all involved. But it went well, really.

Creating a framework for success

Hiring an external consultant gives a company access to specialized expertise, proven methodologies and fresh perspectives. However, for this collaboration to be truly fruitful, it is crucial to create a framework conducive to success on the part of both the client company and the consultant.

Successful consulting depends on close collaboration and mutual understanding between the client company and the consultant. By working together in a spirit of partnership and trust, they can overcome challenges, seize opportunities and achieve remarkable results. Consulting is not just about providing work or solutions, but about creating an environment conducive to growth, innovation and long-term success.

This article on consulting is the third in a series exploring the three pillars of support.

I hope you’ve found these articles informative and relevant to your business. In a week’s time, we’ll be publishing the next article in this series. Stay tuned for even more analysis and inspiration to help you succeed on your career path.

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