Archive for April, 2010
There are two main challenges with the traditional consulting approach. First, it is obviously hard to build real commitment and ownership if your audience has not had a real stake in developing the solution. Secondly, much of the learning in many consulting projects occurs during the project, when the project team struggles to define the problem, interprets and re-interprets data, and challenges each other to come up with creative solutions. The client who is only presented with the final Power Point deck misses out on this learning.
Of course, all effective consultants will try to involve the client periodically, but this only goes some way toward addressing the concern. More active involvement is needed. An example of a promising approach – that puts the client at the center – is large group interventions. A US organizational development journal had a special issue about such methodologies in 2005, you can find an overview of the articles here. I have also myself used such methods on some projects, see this blog post.
At the same time, as with all good ideas, there is a risk in terms of overshooting. There are occasions where companies have a very specific question (“What is the size of the market in France”?”) or need objective, outside evaluation of an issue (“What caused the HSE problems on project X?”), for which the traditional consulting model may still be best suited. In general, though, client learning probably needs to be more highly prioritized and it is thus important to consider the methods and approaches that can help us achieve that goal.