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To Team or Not to Team
The PhasesMost significant consulting assignments go through three main phases with appropriate introductions and feedback arrangements.
DiagnosisThis investigative phase has elements of the audit operations mentioned above – if teamwork is appropriate, it is likely to be with the sponsoring group. This may present problems if there are differences of opinion between the sponsors and other groups.
DesignThis phase is often crucial to the success of the project and is largely a problem-solving phase. Team working can be appropriate depending on the balance of capabilities and expertise and the degree of resistance / support. If you have been brought in because of your "expert" knowledge of either the content or process then you will need to tread carefully to get support whilst ensuring your expertise is brought to bear.
Delivery / ImplementationIn most cases, this stage benefits from a team approach but to make it work, you will need to start the process during the design phase. There is normally a subtle point where the consultant moves into a supportive role, this transition is crucial to an effective disengagement at the end of the process. You don't want to create a dependency culture – however appealing it may seem from your business perspective.
YouIt can be very easy to forget that you are part of the process and you need to be very aware of your natural style of consultancy, working in teams and communication. You need to be aware of when your natural style helps and when it might hinder so that you can provide the right contribution at the right time and bring in support where you can't provide it yourself. If the client needs new ideas and perspectives and you have no aptitude or competence in this area – bring in someone who can. If you can do it but it doesn't come naturally then you will have to act out of character. You need to know your own strengths and weaknesses before you start.
RecommendationsEvery situation is different so management consultants need a range of approaches that take account of the content, context and process of the assignment. They need to understand their natural approach, be aware of the limitations and implications of this and be prepared to adjust their approach to suit the circumstances. The choice is not about whether to be part of the team or adopt a more detached perspective but rather about when to adopt which style to maximise the benefits and minimise the risks of each.
Finally, reflecting on what works and what was less effective always helps you learn how to do better next time – you live and learn.
For more information, contact Jim Yates.
© 2004 Jim Yates