At the very heart of the consulting process, Weiss explains, is the reality that consultants need more than refined skills in order to succeed. They primarily need to work together with clients to create true professional partnerships. He emphasizes that consultants must prepare the environment for, and effectively educate the buyer about, the focus required and resources needed to support the project's implementation. Using the guidelines outlined in this book, consultants will learn how to prepare themselves, the buyer, and the client implementers to support and champion the intervention. This is a book that both internal and external consultants should be using as their daily guide to project success.
Process Consulting shows how to
- Create the conditions for a successful intervention
- Put in place the strategy and tactics needed to gather intelligence
- Coach key people and establish the rules of engagement
- Reinforce change and overcome resistance
- Create dynamic instruction that will yield outright results for the client's business
- Focus on the transition from strategy formulation to strategy implementation
- Improve leadership that is driven by values and measured by results
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Process ConsultingHow to Launch, Implement, and Conclude Successful Consulting Projects
By Alan Weiss
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7879-5512-4
Chapter OneConditions for a Successful Intervention
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Stacking the Deck in Consulting Is Not Cheating
Consulting techniques and interventions don't succeed or fail based on the atmosphere of the client, the self-esteem of the consultant, or the phase of the moon. They succeed or fail based, largely, on whether conditions conducive to their success or failure are in place.
The bad news is that is an implacable dynamic. The good news is that we control the dynamic, the client does not.
The reason that we've seen barely coherent approaches often triumphantly resound to the huzzahs of repeat business and the prized jewels of our beloved methodology fall to the ground and become lost amidst the macadam is that the conditions that obtain actually produce victory or defeat. Centuries ago Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, "I have often reflected that the causes of the successes or failures of men are dependent on their ability to suit their manner to the times."
How well can you massage, manage, and maneuver the environment so that your intervention is ideally suited to the conditions of the times?
Above all-and I hope this thought will resonate and carom throughout the book-we cannot afford the conceit of falling in love with our own methodologies. Our best six approaches to the sales process, strategy facilitation skills, conflict resolution technology, and assorted other proprietary (or simply beloved) approaches are not the point. They are merely means to an end, and that end had better be the improved condition of the buyer.
No buyer ever said, "Our people don't understand their roles in terms of our strategic intent any better than before, but that consultant had a fabulous nine-box grid, superb computerized reminder lists, and a wonderful facilitation technique." What that buyer says is, "Let's never do that again!" and "Is it too late to get our money back?"
EDUCATING THE BUYER
Prior to the sale you probably had to educate the buyer about need, value, metrics, and other aspects of your proposal. However, that education doesn't end with the signed contract or the buyer's check clearing the bank. You must constantly educate the buyer about the needs, progress, and accountabilities of the consulting project. That begins with the first meetings when you're establishing a relationship and ends with... well, it never really ends.
Ultimata: Your methodology is not nearly as important as the client's receptivity to support methodology. If achieving the latter means modifying the former, then do so. The equation does not work in the other direction. The client will never love your methodology as much as you do!
Here are the fundamental educational processes you should utilize during and after the sale to ensure the success of your implementation. It doesn't hurt to keep a physical checklist of these requirements so that you can ensure you don't skip a step or miss a beat.
Five-Step Client Education Checklist
1. Establish Crisp Objectives. Create very clear business outcomes for the project. Translate "inputs" (your methodology or the tasks required) into "outputs" (the improved client condition stated as business outcomes). Examples:
Input or Methodology Business Result or Objective
Conduct focus groups Determine employee commitment to new compensation plan
Facilitate strategic retreat Create top-team consensus on nature and direction of the business
Serve as expert witness Enable client to defend against lawsuit successfully
Coach general manager Enable senior executive to delegate to subordinates, focus on acquisitions
Crisp objectives will also circumscribe the project, preventing the dread "scope creep," which afflicts many consulting interventions like a fungus growing out of control in the dark and moisture of vague agreements.
2. Establish Clear Accountabilities. A consulting project is not something you "do" to the client. It's something that the two of you mutually engage in-a collaboration or partnership requiring both of your talents, vantage points, and hard work. My proposals always include a section called "joint accountabilities," meaning that there are responsibilities uniquely mine, uniquely the buyer's, and uniquely shared by us. Examples:
Buyer: Make certain documents available, provide access to key people, visibly support the initiative at agreed on events and junctures, provide personal feedback, and so on.
Consultant: Provide periodic reports and updates, facilitate and manage all interventions as agreed on, adhere to confidentiality/non-compete agreements, and so forth.
Mutual: Inform each other immediately of anything learned that could materially affect the success of the project (e.g., the consultant learns that two key officers are resigning in the next month, or the buyer learns that there will be a major acquisition or divestiture).
Ultimata: The buyer knows about making cars, selling insurance, or creating brands on the Internet. You know about consulting. As you educate yourself about the buyer's business, why shouldn't the buyer be educated about yours?
3. Co-Opt Key Sponsors. Find the people who will make this project succeed or fail internally. Then cajole, romance, subvert, twist arms, and/or influence them in any way possible. These formal and informal sponsors are usually among the following:
Buyer's direct reports
Key union officers
Managers of key functions (e.g., sales)
Key channel partners or agents
Buyer's informal advisors
Senior financial officers
Large, influential customers
Enlist the buyer in helping you make the case to these people, always remembering that "What's in it for me?" will be their explicit or implicit question, and that question needs to be answered completely and satisfactorily.
4. Prepare the Buyer for Wins and Losses. Every project I've ever been engaged in has had its share of false starts, setbacks, and "whoopses." Maybe that's because I'm just not that good. But maybe that's because such yin and yang are inevitable. If the latter is true, then you'd better prepare the buyer (and yourself).
Spell out for the buyer what may go wrong and why. For example:
People who feel threatened will probably complain
A lack of sponsorship will create doubts about sincerity
The message will have to be repeatedly reinforced, not spoken just once accompanied by a banner in the cafeteria
Senior people must "walk the talk"
Unforeseen events will undoubtedly intervene, seldom for the better
Eventually, there will be conflicting priorities to be resolved by the buyer
The more you can prepare the buyer for these eventualities, the better he or she will be able to see, even after the rose-colored glasses are discarded.
5. Make It Clear That Metrics Are Everything. If the two of you aren't jointly measuring progress at frequent intervals, then no good can come of it. If things go poorly, the buyer will feel surprised and mistreated. If things go exceedingly well, the buyer will wonder if you really were needed at all.
Some metrics can be objective and some subjective. The key is that you and the buyer agree on how you'll measure progress, and you both agree that the measurement device is fair. Some examples:
Weekly sales reports Talking to salespeople and customers Quarterly financial results Monitoring the customer complaint line Monthly turnover Nature of grievances brought to HR Customer retention Customer feedback on support Rejects and quality data Vendors stop complaining
The best measure is one on which you and the buyer can agree, to quote Bob Mager's famous line, that you know it when you trip over it.
Ultimata: Don't allow any buyer to stipulate, "I'll just know that we've achieved it." Despite the Supreme Court justice who said he'd know pornography when he saw it, consulting results are seldom so unequivocal or fascinating unless you specify what it is you're both looking for.
Educate the buyer in a manner that will be conducive to the success of your project. If you don't, no one else will, so you don't exactly have a lot of backup here.
MEETING KEY PLAYERS
Since the sales process can easily involve no one other than the buyer, it's important to spend some time on techniques required to meet and influence the key players described above. Remember that these are often people who will be threatened, indifferent, callused from prior experiences, cynical, sycophantic, and/or insincere.
Other than that, they're a fine bunch.
You must always keep the following absolute truth in mind when seeking to influence "key others": People will only willingly change their own behavior (motivation, as opposed to mere movement when ordered to change) when their own rational self-interest is affected. It is incumbent on you to identify, understand, and appeal to that rational self-interest.
Ultimata: Consultants have no organizational power, and attempting to utilize the buyer's hierarchical power is cowardly (as well as ineffective). Determine and explain why it's best for others to change, not why it's best for you for them to change.
CASE STUDY # 1
Dealing with the CEO of a $600 million subsidiary outside of Chicago, we agreed on a project to improve the collaboration and teamwork of his direct reports. The problem was that, as is so often the case, his "team" was really a committee. See Appendix A, Figure A.1, for a visual comparison of the two.
"How would you know they have moved to true teamwork?" I asked, desperately seeking a metric.
"Oh, I'd just know," he assured me.
"Well, what's happening now that convinces you they aren't there yet?"
He listed the following:
"They don't share resources.
They argue over turf issues and who gets credit at my management meetings.
I have to play referee constantly.
Their own reports follow their lead and don't cooperate with their counterparts cross-functionally."
I simply reversed these and had fabulous metrics, for example, "If you no longer played referee at meetings or in your office, and they shared their resources and budgets as needed without you making the Solomon-like decision, then they would be a team."
"Yes," he said, "they would be a team and you would be a miracle worker." It turned out that he was right on both counts.
Work with the buyer to determine who the key players are; then develop a plan to influence every one of them positively. This won't always work, of course. You'll have entrenched hard heads and purely personal agendas at work. But if you make the effort, you'll convert more than your share and tremendously soften the environment to accept the kind of interventions the client requires.
Here's a road map for identifying and influence key others.
The Road Map to Influencing and Educating Key Others
1. Identify the Key Players Whose Support (or at Least Non-Opposition) You Require. The criteria can include
Respected by large numbers of people
Controls resources essential to the project
Possesses expertise key to your successful implementation
Has caused the success or failure of similar endeavors in the past
Possesses or controls information key to implementation
There's nothing wrong with putting these criteria in front of the buyer and generating a list.
2. Set Priorities. Not everyone is equally important, and you don't have all the time or energy in the world. After all, the project has to begin before every duck is in a row and every cat has been taught to dance. Determine, with the buyer, who can absolutely derail the project, as opposed to those who can simply put sand on the track.
Begin with the derailers, and get to the sanders as time permits. Usually co-opting the former will drag along the latter.
3. Create a Tailored Plan for Each. Usually the worst thing you can do is to get everyone in a room and tell them what you're going to do for them, which will make the IRS seem genuine and empathetic by comparison. Instead, devise a way to approach each based on self-interest. Which of them are anxious for new assignments, for new resources, for more freedom, for greater recognition, for healthier life balance, and so on?
Do your utmost to merge the buyer's business objectives with each individual's personal objectives. For example, if a given manager has long held that she's working too hard, demonstrate how the project will enable her to put in a forty-five-hour week and reach the same results she now achieves. If a union leader has qualms about losing control, show how the project's plan for delegation will actually push decisions to front-line levels.
Find out what makes them tick; then provide the fuel.
4. Keep Them in the Loop. The greatest consulting implementation sin I've encountered is keeping potential supporters in the dark, even after initially good meetings and budding relationships. Keep them aboard by
Developing steering committees and advisory boards with their participation
Copying them on reports, updates, and summaries sent to the buyer
Inviting them to key buyer meetings
Frequently asking for their suggestions, input, and critiques (it's far better to get a critique to your face than behind your back)
5. Establish and Monitor Their Accountabilities. Gain agreement from the buyer and the others about their involvement and responsibilities, and monitor the progress. In that way, you have frequent and regular excuses not only to interact, but to remind them of the support needed. Hint: The more specific the accountabilities, the harder they are to shirk or ignore.
Ultimata: Passion is a thin line between love and hate. If someone virulently opposes your project, finding his or her "hot button" (self-interest) will convert that zeal to your support. Remember that logic makes people think, but emotion makes them act.
Excerpted from Process Consulting by Alan Weiss Excerpted by permission.
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Table of ContentsIntroduction
Chapter 1. Conditions for a Successful Intervention 1
Chapter 2. Gathering Intelligence: Strategy 19
Chapter 3. Gathering Intelligence: Tactics 35
Chapter 4. Coaching Key People 53
Chapter 5. Culture Change and Change Management 71
Chapter 6. An Interlude: Managing Misfortune 89
Chapter 7. Learning Lessons 105
Chapter 8. Developing Client Strategy 123
Chapter 9. Creating Change 141
Chapter 10. Improving Leadership 159
Appendix A: Sample Process Visuals 177
Appendix B: Annotated Bibliography 183
What People are Saying About This
"Alan Weiss's latest book is filled with the wisdom that comes from having been there and done that. Most anyone, whether experienced or inexperienced, can gain a great deal from it." —Benjamin B. Tregoe, chairman emeritus and cofounder, Kepner-Tregoe, Inc.
"What could be more valuable than an expert consultant revealing in great detail exactly how to succeed? There is nothing I appreciate more than a book chock-full of actionable advice. Every consultant, regardless of his or her experience, will find enormous value in this book. This is akin to sitting for weeks on the other end of the log with the Socrates of consulting." —Jack Zenger, founder and CEO, Zenger-Miller, and coauthor, Results-Based Leadership
"Anyone trying to make it big-time at management consulting should own a copy of this book. The brief case summaries will be particularly revealing and useful." —Robert F. Mager, founder, Mager Associates, Inc., and member, Training and Development Hall of Fame