Being Right Versus An Effective Consultant

One of the things that is always a challenge in consulting is being effective.  We are in the business of helping people change the way they do things, whether using a new system or a new approach.  Is the measure of success that we are right or that the client has changed? 

I thought for some time that the important thing was being right.  If you tell somebody the way things are, then you have done your job, right?  However I discovered that being right is only good for your ego and really if it does not help the client, it really is not successful.  Therefore being effective is the key.  People must be able to do something with the information you provide, so the process you use present your ideas is as important as what you present.

Often a consultant will do a study and prepare a report or build a system.  Then, if the report is right or the system is bug free, is the project successful?  I believe that you cannot tell because the success depends on what actually happens.  The product can be the best in the world, but if it sits on the shelf gathering dust, I believe it has failed.  The consultant has wasted the clients money. 

The successful system or project must take into account the clients capability to use what has been presented.  It is far more important that the project show results than be the best report or system.  Many consultant will say that is not my problem.  I strongly disagree.

What do you think?

  1. Stephen Hayward Reply

    One of the things that I think is the idea of I told you so.
    Often as with the idea of readiness, the client is not ready to hear your report. This is not their fault or yours, I have often seen that the underlying issue is a mutual understanding of each party’s position.
    Take for example someone coming up with an idea in a brainstorming session (idea A). The team decides to go a different way. The idea A solution may have been perfect, but if it was not understood by the team it may have been glossed over. Or as in many cases, there were issues outside of the room, such as readiness, standards and so forth that drove the adoption of the other idea.
    What the challenge is though is for the consultants to work together for mutual success of the new platform. It may even morph towards idea A as others better understand the idea or that this ends up being the right way.
    This is not an “I told you so” moment. The world is bigger than our idea of the perfect solution to the problem.
    We at Project X are very lucky to have one specific client who works hard with us together when we get into these situations. He is very used to living in this mode and is always open to discussion, but when the decision is made. Analysis is over and it is time to drive forward.

  2. Jim Reply

    You are right on, Maida. Even if you are absolutely right and no change takes place then the project is not effective. At one time I thought the important thing was that the report had to be perfect. Later I realized if no change takes place the project has failed no matter how good the report or system is. The effectiveness is measured by the change not the quality of the report. Life turns out to be more complex than just a perfect document or system. The purpose of most consulting projects is to change something in an organization. Maybe it depends on other things, not just being right. The client has to be ready to use the advice and able to take action. Hard lessons from a life of hard consulting knocks.

  3. Maida Reply

    It seems to me that if you offer your clients something and they don’t use it, you have missed something about the company dynamics – either in how you’ve designed the system, or in how you’ve presented it.

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