for making the best use of your consultant
By Nilooka Dissanayake
Sensible clients. Ah, that would be the dream of any consultant!
Unfortunately, a dream that too often turns into a nightmare giving
a bad name to both clients and consultants.
consultants is very fashionable," says Milan Kubr in "Management
Consulting, A Guide to the Profession" published by the International
Labour Organisation (ILO). However, don't fall into this trap without
knowing what you are talking about. In referring back to this dome
of a book, a sort of a Bible for Management Consultants, I found
an interesting section which I would like to share with you. That
is: The Client's Ten Commandments.
it funny how no one talks about horrible clients? No one that is
except consultants! Just so you can become a model client, here
are the Client's Ten Commandments:
Learn about consulting
* Define your problem!
* Define your purpose!
* Choose your consultant!
* Develop a joint programme!
* Cooperate actively with
* Involve the consultant in
* Monitor progress!
* Evaluate the results and
* Beware of dependence on
believe most of these Commandments are self-explanatory. Still,
here's my contribution to help you live accordingly and make the
best of consultants.
you are planning to make use of consultants, you need to learn about
the types and varieties of consultants, how they operate, how they
charge and how they can help you. Look at it this way: If you want
to buy a new car, you will be doing a lot of research and analyses
to get the best deal and value for the investment you will be making.
Shop for a consultant in the same way. Be an educated client, not
a clueless one. Consulting is becoming a highly competitive area
and you should know how to select a consultant to serve your need.
Cost may not always be the main factor.
is an ever-changing field. As and when new business practices, new
technologies and new trends come into being, new types of consultants
too arrive on the scene to help and advice you on those new areas.
So there will be plenty of new things on which you need advice and
new consultants to keep track of.
your problem! You could always go by the maxim, "If it works,
don't fix it." I am certainly not advising you to be lethargic
and backward. But, before running in search of consultants, identify
the problem you wish them to fix. Then and then only can you brief
a consultant intelligently and get results out of them. And be ready
to open up your mind to suggestions. An outsider may see things
and weak points in your business or potential strategic areas that
you may wish to explore. But draw a line somewhere.
is the purpose of getting a consultant? Can it be done in house?
Will a consultant do a better job of it? Is it to expand your operations,
improve your productivity or set up and implement a new production
or IT system? You should have specific, measurable goals that will
be the deliverables by the consultant. "If you don't know where
you want to go," as the Cheshire Cat tells Alice, in Alice
in Wonderland, "it does not matter which route you take."
your consultant! This may seem a bit strange until you look back
at past experience. Did you really choose your consultant or did
he choose you? Often the latter is the case. This does not really
lead to objective decision-making on your part, does it?
a joint programme and cooperate with your consultant. Consultants
often charge on time spent. If cost is your concern, you can discuss
and agree with the consultant how work can be shared. Just because
you feel you are paying a lot, don't get your consultant to do things
that your staff could have done anyway. It is necessary to clearly
agree in writing, especially with new consultants, what the consultants
will do and what part your organization will do to make the assignment
please, don't waste the time of your consultants. And tell your
staff not to do the same. If you do, your costs will go up and you
can hardly blame consultants for your own incompetence. From experience
I know that this happens in most assignments, whether in multinational
organizations or in small businesses.
the consultant in implementation wherever possible. Professional
consultants confident of their results will always welcome involvement.
Consider implementation with a part of the fee payable once results
progress to ensure things are what they should be and that the consultant
and your people are both working according to set time lines and
quality levels. There is no point in complaining afterwards. Do
it early to salvage the situation. Your object is results, not complaining
or consultant bashing.
results at the end of assignment to see whether you achieved your
objective. If not, why? If yes … to what extent? How can this
experience be used in the future? There are many learning points
for both consultants and clients. However, clients often disregard
this opportunity. You could even discuss with the consultant what
could have been done better.
of dependence on consultants! Don't delegate decision making to
your consultant. He will go off some day. You have to face the music.
It is your business. Always be involved.
your best people involved directly in the consultancy assignment
so that they learn from the consultant and develop their own skills.
Can they learn to the extent that the next time a similar assignment
comes along, you can do it in house? That should be your and their
goal, although consultants won't love me for saying so.
explaining the Ten Commandments, the ILO publication does not aim
to teach you how to use consultants, but to stress upon the critical
points in choosing consultants and working with them.
can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 5-552524
The writer is the Managing Editor of Athwela Vyaparika Sangarawa
(Athwela Business Journal), the only Sinhala management monthly
targeting the small and medium enterprises and its English version,
Small Business International magazine and www.smallbusiness.lk,
the bilingual small business website.