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The Role of a Consultant

Just as the doctors say, First, do no harm, the consultant is only successful if the client isbetter off after the engagement than before. That improvement may be in the form of a problem fixed, an opportunity exploited, a disaster averted, confidence validated, or any number of other salutary results. But if you havent improved the clients condition, then you havent been successful. This means that consultants roles are those of advisors. We dont do the work, per se. When a consultant becomes the temporary (or de facto) director of sales, he or she is no longer a consultant but an employee filling a key position. Its up to our client to assess our advice and make appropriate decisions. After all, if the lawyers made the legal decisions, the auditors the financial decisions, and the consultants the management decisions, then why would we need managers? Consulting is a relationship business. That means we must develop trusting relationships with internal partners and clients. One of the key problems in internal consulting is a lack of trust. We address this as we progress, but we all know that a lack of credibility attached to a department or function also attaches itself to individuals representing that department or function. The role of an internal consultant should place an emphasis on anticipation, improvement, and innovation. There has been an inordinate concentration on problem solving. While always important, problem solving has become a fairly mechanized routine and therefore of less value, despite its frequency. Problem solving basically restores performance to past levels. In a sense the consultant's role is a paradox. He gives advice to people of equal intelligence who have vastly superior and extensive experience and knowledge of the problem. Yet he is not necessarily an expert in anything. What is the justification for his value? The consultant can function as a specialist or expert, In this role he must be more knowledgeable than the client. This implies a very narrow field of specialization; otherwise the client with his greater continuity of experience would be equally expert. The consultant can function as a counsellor or advisor on the process of decision making. This implies an expertise of a special kind, that of the psychotherapist. This is merely a particular kind of expertise in a particular field. The most typical role for a consultant is that of auxiliary staff. This does not preclude any of the other roles mentioned before, but it does require a quite different emphasis. All companies have staff capabilities of their own. Some of this staff is very good. Yet no company can afford to have standby staff adequate for any and all problems. This is why there is an opportunity for consultants. They fill the staff role that cannot be filled internally. By definition this means that consultants are most useful on the unusual, the non-recurring, the unfamiliar problem. Outside consultants are also most useful where the problem is poorly

defined and politically sensitive, but the correct decision is extremely important. Outside consultants get the tough, the important and the sensitive problems. The natural function of a consultant is to reduce anxiety and uncertainty. Those are the conditions under which anxiety and uncertainty are greatest and where consultants are most likely to be hired. His analytical thinking must be rigorous and logical, or he will commit himself to the undoable or the useless assignment. Whatever his other strengths, he must be the effective and respected organizer of group activities which are both complex and difficult to coordinate. Failure in this is to fall into the restricted role of the specialist. In defining the problem, the effective consultant must have the courage and the initiative to state his convictions and press the client for acceptance and resolution of the problem as defined. The client expects the consultant to have the strength of his convictions if he is to be dependent upon him. Consultants who are unskilled at this are often liked and respected but employed only as counselors, not as true management consultants. The successful professional inevitably must be both self-disciplined and rigorous in his data gathering as well as highly cooperative as a member of a case team. The continuing client relationship requires a sustained and highly developed empathy with the client representative. Inability to do this is disqualifying for the more significant roles in management consulting. In other words, the successful consultant: Identifies his client's significant problems; Persuades his client to act on the problems by researching them; Organizes a diversified task force of his own firm and coordinates its activity; Fully utilizes the insights and staff work available in his client's organization; Uses the full conceptual power of his own project team; Successfully transmits his findings to the client and sees that they are implemented; Identifies the succeeding problems and maintains the client relationship; Fully satisfies the client expectations that he raised; Does all these things within a framework of the time and cost constraints imposed by himself or the client. Questions: 1) Who is a good consultant? 2) What are the common problems that an ordinary businessman faces?



Compiled by Jinu Rose Johnson 0 9961352797