Quick Tips for Consulting to Small Organizations

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    There’s a lot of money available to help small businesses, and it seems like there’ll be more available as we work to make more jobs. So OD in small businesses might be even more worthwhile.

    About half of our clients are small organizations. My experience of the differences of between OD in small and large is that in small organizations:

    It rarely works to market myself as “guiding change” or “change agent,” etc. Instead, I’ve been more successful with, e.g., “turnaround specialist” or “business developer.”

    Assessments should use the pareto principle, i.e., focus on some “best practices” in each of the major management functions. Focus on “low hanging fruit.”

    Look at life cycles. Is the business getting started, i.e., new in a market OR has it been so successful and grown fast that it needs internal systems?

    Don’t be afraid to look at the “business” or “hard” data, at least to understand the cash situation of the organization. Get help to do that if you aren’t comfortable with cash flows.

    Always do a proposal and contract, not just a Statement of Work, because the client will regularly want you to do more, and struggles to measure “success” in the project.

    Stick to your expertise. The owner, if he/she likes you, will want you to help in a wide variety of activities, so be mindful to stick to what you know.

    Interpersonal relationships with the client are the keystone to project success. Much rides on understanding the owner’s personality.

    Focus on leadership and managment “systems/structures,” not on people (which can be hard to do with today’s infatuation with heroic leaders 🙂

    Change takes longer because external and influences have a larger, quicker affect on the organization.

    Plans for change should have multiple phases and with quick successes.

    Get paid after each phase!


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


    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.