Author: Samuel Muriithi
A consulting process framework that you can use for consultancy work
Successful consulting comes down to a basic process. Different consultants will however have varying opinions about the number of phases this process should feature.
This is quite evident in the following examples of well-known consulting processes from various industry leaders:
- The McKinsey 7 steps of problem solving
In solving problems for their clients McKinsey consultants use the model shown below:
You can read more about it here.
- Gartner Consulting 5 step research process
Gartner Consulting employs a 5-step process to accurately interpret how trends that impact the future of technology users, providers or investors could play out.
- Brighter Naming 12-step basic naming framework
Brighter Naming makes use of this name development process, details of which can be found here. Using this framework the team is able to:
- Develop lots of names
- Sort through them
- Conduct searches and checks, and
- Bring management teams to an agreement
Evidently, consulting processes are developed to suit a given purpose; the one-size-fits-all approach cannot apply here.
Nevertheless, when developing yours the following 10-step process framework can come in handy. You’ll just need to tweak and customize as you see fit for your purpose:
(The dotted vertical lines imply that an exit, i.e. termination, is possible at any of these stages)
Here is a brief look at what each of the steps involves:
The prospective client gets in touch with you seeking help with a project. Sometimes you are the one who’ll initiate such contact. This point marks the beginning of a possible new client-consultant relationship.
This is the primary outcome of your next meeting with the client. In this meeting you and the client agree on what you will offer to and expect from each other. The main talking points here include:
- A definition of the work, issue, opportunity or problem
- You and the client’s expected outcomes
- Your approach to the problem
- How and from whom you’ll gather information about what is going on, when you’ll do this
- Arrangements for how you and the client will work together
- What the contract will cost in time, money, equipment and materials
This stage involves learning about the client or their organization. It can also be referred to as “Data Collection”. Here you’ll be making an intentional search, with an open mind, and genuine positive curiosity.
Having collected information, you’ll now want to analyze it. Two questions will help you do this:
- What does the information say?
- What does the information mean?
This step involves getting back to the client and presenting the data and its interpretation to them. You need to do this in a way that the client will be able to understand, accept, and own it.
After getting the client’s agreement about the data and its interpretation you’ll both need to resist the urge to rush into judgment and action. This step is about considering what other options are available to you before a decision is made about how to proceed.
As the consultant you can:
- Develop alternatives
- Help the client develop alternatives
- Offer your alternatives
Here the client will narrow down on a choice that’ll in turn inform proceedings. You can expect that other people who were not there when you and the client began will get involved. These include persons:
- with relevant useful expertise
- with necessary authority
- affected by the decision
- whose commitment is needed
- who need to support the decision
Following the decision you should now assist the client to arrange details about who’ll do what, when and where, leading up to the next step…
Action or implementation is all about execution. Here you and the client should now switch to all-action mode and wholly concern yourselves with getting the job done.
Ensure that the momentum that had built up leading to this stage is not lost; encourage immediate action. Those participants that came in at the previous stage should witness action that is directly related to what they committed to.
You should execute your part of the action promptly thereby encouraging the others to similarly do their part.
Also known as “evaluation”, you and the client will now exchange notes. The questions you need to ask of yourself are:
- Is the client satisfied?
- Were expectations met?
- Was the manner in which you responded to unforeseen circumstances reasonable and appropriate?
- What new issues came to the surface? How can they be addressed?
- Are there any follow-up projects?
Always remember: Evaluated projects get more attention than unevaluated projects.
This marks the finishing point of your work i.e. when all that you had agreed to do has been completed.
Rather than just walking away it would be more appropriate that you and the client reflect on what has been achieved and the gains made by working together. A summary report from you at this point will help both of you to acknowledge as much.
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