8. The focus of consultant projects can change frequently.
Smaller organizations, like larger organizations, are dynamic and complex. New and different problems can arise at any level in the organization. However, in smaller organizations there are few internal systems to reliably notice the problems and solve them. Thus, there usually is little time between when an issue arises and is felt by everyone in the organization. As a result, they might seek consultants on an emergency basis. However, soon after starting a project to address that emergency, another priority might arise so that the client wants to change the project or abandon it altogether. Thus, the consultant needs to be patient and adaptable, yet useful and persistent.
9. When management consultants are hired, it usually is for focused and short-term needs.
At different times, the CEO has to undertake strategic planning, business planning, product development, marketing, staffing, supervision, financial management and property management. Outside expertise, at times, is often a must for the success of the organization. The consultant can help leaders to see the necessary integration and alignment of various management functions and the need to instill best practices in all of them.
10. Even when needed, it can be very difficult to “sell” soft skills.
Leaders in small organizations often see noticeable and measurable activities as being directly aligned with producing sales. Consequently, the soft skills that are needed for employees to thrive are often undervalued. When consultants perceive a clear need for certain soft skills in the organization, they might help indirectly with occasional advice about these skills and by modeling those skills themselves.
(The above information is adapted with permission from Sandra Larson, previous Executive Director of The Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits, St. Paul.)
Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, faculty member of the Consultants Development Institute.