Friday, June 16, 2006

Personal reflections on Module 1:

In this module, we get an good introduction to the step by step formula that the book follows for consulting. The author calls it a framework and breaks it down into steps in each chapter, and then subdivides that into materials related to each step. The two chapters involved here have to do with identifying the client and their needs, and how the consultant lets the client know the limitations and guarantees of the relationship.

I thought the first chapter was very good. I like the idea of clarifying what the client is looking for. Far too often consultants assume they have all the answers and come on like gangbusters, as if they can solve everyone's problems. The truth is, that they can't and the sooner that is dealt with the better. This is an opportunity to get to know the client and his environment and how he perceives both his problem and his expected solution. It is a critical time of honesty on both the consultant and the client's part. In fact, I think the consultant should spend most of his time just asking good open-ended probing questions about what it is that the client is expecting. It will allow the consultant to determine whether or not he can actually be of use here, and it also gives the consultant an opportunity to decide whether or not he feels capable and comfortable in dealing with this particular client or environment. It is also a good time for the consultant to admit that he has no skills, background, traits or what have you in the areas where the client is seeking help. It's really hard to admit that you don't have the expertise but if you know you don't, then this is the ideal time to admit it. It does not necessarily mean that you will not get the contract, it just means that al the cards are out on the table. It allows the consultant some wiggling room in bringing in additional consultants, learning more, or perhaps even referring the client to a consultant with more background in that particular areas (a good solid referral is often as good as a satisfied contract in getting the word out to potential clients....client will remember your honesty and willingness to share). Other texts and articles have read often refer to this stage as pre-qualifying the client...making sure that there is a good fit between the client and consultant.

This step is also a time to clarify some of the issues. It helps to make sure that you both are on a level playing field. It should keep disagreements from cropping up later.

The next step, has to do with further clarification of the relationship between what the client expects and what the consultant expects. Having this conversation early in process, keeps a lot of the emotionality out of the project. Once again, I consider this a sort of "pre-qualifying" the client. It allows the consultant time to determine if he feels that he can do a great job with this client and this problem. If the consultant does not see a "great" end product, then it might behoove him to pass this one by, and move on to one that has greater potential. It also give him a bit of time to explore who the other players are, and in many cases, a chance to do a bit of background checking before actually saying "yes" to an offer of consulting". For the client, it is likely that the background check has already occured before you get to this point. If not, then all this is just a friendly response to your dynamic elevator speech. This step allows the client to think about how well the potential consultant can work with his team and in his environment. Usually pull-outs from either party can happen in this stage without anyone having to spend much money or time. "Negotiating the Relationship" is actually a great term to describe how much detail has to go into this step. It also represents the kind of give and take that is necessary to make this unique partnership excell. Negotiation in itself, implies that there is a willingness to not only stand one's ground, but also to give in a bit when necessary. These are obviously steps to a win-win agreement.

The two additional reading, have to do with self-awareness and knowledge of one's skills set, and about using that first meeting as leverage into a more lasting rrlationship. Both were very thoughtful articles, and both were full of good advice to the reader.

The final skills translation exercies seemed to have more to do with semantics than skill. I am sure that it is necessary to make sure that the cllient and the consultant are understanding the skills and traites needed for the job, but I felt that the intent was slightly misleading. Business speak, is just a part of the business climate, just like consultant speak is part of that environment. Neither are bad or good...just different. Maybe that why this exercise was included.

This module was a good start.

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