How Much Should the Client Be Involved in Consulting Projects?

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    Peter Block, author of Flawless Consulting, asserts that, as a consultant, you should not be contributing more than 50% of the effort in a consulting project. Your client should work the remainder. You should never be doing what your client can do in a project and client involvement in consulting projects.

    This is especially true for external consultants. Internal consultants might do more than 50% of the work. However, they still should strive to have clients do most of the work if those clients are to learn to solve problems for themselves.

    Others might believe that the amount of work each party contributes depends on the nature of the services in the consulting project. For example, a technical consultant installing a computer system might do most of the work. However, even in projects where you are an expert consultant, for example, training clients how to conduct a certain procedure, your client must participate substantially in the project.

    For example, they must actively participate in your training methods, be actively listening to you, think about what you are saying to them, and engage in small group exercises.

    Prominent psychologist, Carl Rogers, asserted that you cannot teach anyone anything. People can only learn when they are ready to learn. That is why Block’s assumptions about consulting are so valid, particularly that effective decision-making requires free and open choice among participants and that effective implementation requires the internal commitment of your clients.

    A challenge, particularly for new organizational consultants, is to cultivate a collaborative relationship with clients so clients are highly involved in all phases of the consulting project. New organizational consultants might fall victim to the myths that they can somehow descend into an organization and “fix” it without the client having to participate.

    The irony of this situation is that when the organizational consultant follows that approach, the client often reacts positively. However, soon after the consultant leaves the project, both the consultant and client realize that the intended changes to the organization never really occurred. Instead, the client is now in a situation worse than before. Reports from the consultant sit unread on the client’s shelves. People are confused about what to do because little or no learning occurred from the project. Perhaps worst of all, members of the organization lose faith in the value of bringing in outside help again in the future.

    Organizational change efforts often fail. That is why organizational consultants have to move away from the traditional “outside expert” approach and toward collaborative organizational consulting.

    What do you think?


    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.


    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
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