A TEN STEP CONSULTING PROCESS

By Geoff Bellman

INTRODUCTION I was a consultant before I knew what one was, and I have been one for over thirty years. Since beginning in this work, I have been following “a consulting process”—whether I knew it or not, whether I was effective or not. With experience--and help from associates, workshops, and patient clients—I learned what worked and did not work for me. I talked about better ways of consulting with my clients, my peers, and eventually consultants on my staff. When I was faced with helping my staff members develop their consulting skills so came up with ten steps that define the consulting process as I knew it. It could have been four steps, or twelve, or seven; but for me, it’s ten. I created the steps based on the many different skills involved, rather than the interaction with the client. The ten step process feels long and detailed to me when I think of it as a guide for my work with a client. But when I think about helping consultants learn what they need to know, it feels just right! In a few pages, we will begin exploring these ten steps. My presentation will be chronological, detailed, and biased by my experience. This is not an academic treatise on what you should do; these steps are not based on research. This consulting process has been formed by what has worked for me. And what has not worked. I see us consultants as custodians of the consulting process. We need to have answers when a client asks, “What would you do if you were consulting to me?” “…Well…What do you want me to do?” is not the correct answer! Based on your experience and training, you should be able to describe to this new client just what the two of you might do together. You may be this client’s first-ever consultant; they may no nothing about how to work with you. They will expect you to know something about how you prefer to consult; more experienced clients would want the same. This is a legitimate expectation; it comes with the consultant’s territory. In my early years as a consultant, I read what others did; I depended on more experienced

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consultants to tell me how to approach clients—just as you may be doing as you read this booklet. With practice, my own sense of my consulting process emerged, and I was able to more confidently talk with clients about how I preferred to work.. And that is what is happening with you right now. As you read through my ten steps, you may notice yourself agreeing and disagreeing with me. This is not simply a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong; it’s about your emerging consulting process. So pay attention. Pay attention to what you especially like about what I propose; it may become part of your emerging process. And pay attention to what you do not like; that may be a clue to something in your emerging consulting process that is different from mine. jump into the ten steps: A TEN STEP CONSULTING PROCESS ENTRY CONTRACT INQUIRY INTERPRETATION FEEDBACK ALTERNATIVES DECISION ACTION MEASUREMENT EXIT Enough introduction! Let’s

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Read from one through ten; see if step labels make sense to you…see if they take you somewhere. The process begins with the initial contact with a potential client and ends when the work is done. I will help each step become clearer during the rest of this booklet. When I talk with clients, I seldom say, “Here’s the ten step process I follow.” I am more likely to say, “I follow a process that starts with today’s initial exploration of your concerns, of the issues and opportunities you face. Then I’m likely to ask you to send me to a few other people to get their perspective on it. After that, I’ll come back to you in a couple of days to propose what we do next.” Those three sentences are about the first two steps in this ten step process. At this early stage, I think these are the only steps I must discuss with the client. At this point, I have no idea whether I’ll be working on a major project. I need more information

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wondering what you could do to cause your phone to ring more often…and the phone rings! It’s a potential client. perhaps felt intuitively.about them and they need more about me. it’s an important difference between what the client has and what they want.might help. I talk at length about “the itch”. perhaps clearly known. you reach for your empty calendar and ask when the two of you could meet to talk further about this. After a short discussion. scream “YES!!”. That’s the beginning of a new client-consultant relationship. You put down the phone. reminding you of who she is. You agree on a time and date. It’s that gap. It may be useful for you to make a few notes along the way: • • • • Which steps are particularly important to you in your work? Which steps are you most skillful in? Which do you need to learn most about? And. STEP ONE: ENTRY The client’s first steps toward seeking a consultant begin with an “itch”. As you read through this process. and wondering what you might be able to do for her. then we can decide. I know already that you are going to get this work so I’m not going to coach you on sales skills—that’s 3 . and that’s when the consulting process begins. you will be more able and confident with your clients. telling you she thinks she might need a consultant. An itch that they feel they cannot scratch alone…and that’s when you or I might get a call. Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge. So…You are sitting at your desk. what is your consulting process? As you become more aware of your process. They usually call because they think you might have the unique expertise they need. think about your skills in performing this step. But I’m getting ahead of myself… The pages which follow offer explanation and guidance on each of the ten steps. And they call you because they feel you might be able to help them narrow the gap. think about how it relates to what you do. and pick up this booklet—which you study daily until your meeting! I’m going to follow your work with this client through this ten step consulting process. In my book. More properly expressed. Each step includes a list of thoughts I find helpful in performing the step better. You answer their call because you are looking for work—and you share their belief that you might help….

It is common for consultants to be called in long after the ideal intervention point has passed. guess what? And of course. you will discover that at least seventy percent of the time the client’s presenting problem is not the real problem of the organization. 16 Establish your interest in helping the client. With experience. She has a story to tell and needs to tell it. she may not. she thinks she needs a plan. nonverbal behavior. Listen to both and demonstrate your respect for what the client says and the feelings that come with that. There’s a very good chance that others in her organization will have different definitions. and telling her what you have heard in your own words. Here are some things to think about before your first meeting with this client: 11 Clients usually call because they have “a problem”. 14 Begin where the client wants to begin. they sometimes call because they have “an opportunity”. Tell the client that this problem is interesting to you. that client may be right. Make sincere statements that You hear about problems when they are well-established and quite 4 . After hearing the client out. rather than where you would prefer to begin. The fact that she called you indicates a willingness to do something about it. 13 Respect the client's willingness to act on this problem. You arrive at the first meeting with the client ready and willing to work. Respect her definition of the problem. If you are a trainer. Check this statement with the client to make sure you are accurate. she called because she thinks training is the solution to her problem. 15 Demonstrate that you understand through facial expressions. Listen carefully to what she has to say. This need is often as important as the story.another book. and that you would like to help. Notice the parts of the problem that seem particularly important to her. On the other hand. There is also a good chance that they have tried something else before calling you. that it is important. It’s most important that the client knows she has been heard and that you understand this problem as she understands it. 12 Clients have often defined the problem and the solution--that is why this client called you. restate what you think you have heard in terms of what you think she wants. A good way to start things off badly is to tell her this--to suggest that what she thinks is the problem is not. If you are a strategic planning. If you are a team builder. uncomfortable.

you have probably moved into later steps in the consulting process. You need more information before committing to action because (as we said earlier) the client’s presenting problem is often not the real problem. do not overwhelm yourself. you may find your need to know more conflicting with the client's need for action. this first meeting will be an hour. Interview those few people she wants you to talk with. Short meetings (30-40 minutes) will do. This is a common discussion point throughout many consultations. Also tell her the fee for your work. Assess what you have learned. Ask the client to arrange individuals meetings for you with three or four others who could add their perspectives to hers. Offer a couple of examples of other projects you’ve worked on. focus on the results you 17 5 . As you talk with her. Tell the client what you will bring her at that meeting: Your updated impressions based on reading and interviews. and your proposed next steps. Build her confidence in you. In this step. Respect the client’s need to act now while the two of you negotiate a way for you to find out more. 19 Schedule your next meeting with the client before you leave this one. and do because you have been thinking about it since she called!) deliver. Supplement what the client provides with a little on-line research of your own. 18 Get client support for those few steps that you want to take over the next few days. perhaps two. what they can expect of you.establish your willingness to take the next steps with her. what you expect of clients. 110 As you finish this meeting. Just a 1-3 hours of reading. (You have to know this ahead of time. ask the client how this meeting went: Did the meeting give her what she wants? Is there anything else she wants from you? If you stick to the Entry step. Talk generally about how you like to work with clients: How you engage them in projects. Ask for copies of related materials that you can read to help you understand the problem. Elaborate on the related experience you have had. If it is longer. Between now and the next meeting with the client… • • • Read materials the client sends your way.

and. talk with them about their answers to their own questions. equipment. Suggest that the client do the same. knowing you will prepare the agreement from these notes.• • Design your Inquiry (Step Three). before laying out all of your ideas.) Your agreements are written so that later on you can remind yourselves of what you decided. The contract meeting deals with these types of questions: • • • • • • What is the work? The issue? The opportunity? The problem? (Identify what is wanted vs. money. and materials? Keep each other informed? Deal with Come to this meeting with notes on your answers to these questions. 22 Early on. it can be changed by mutual agreement (‘not a bad idea to include that in the contract. knowing that you will revise what you have written.) What are the outcomes expected? By the client? By you? How will you approach the problem? How will you gather information about what is going on? From whom? When? How will you and the client work with each other? issues? Support each other? Measure progress? What will this contract cost in time. Some specific suggestions for creating contracts: 21 Make the contract portion of your meeting more business-like. and Make notes on the Contract (Step Two) that you want to make with the client. what exists. clarity. ask the client what they see as the important questions you need to answer together. Take notes on all of this. 23 Weave your own questions and answers into and around what the client offers. STEP TWO: CONTRACT A contract is the primary outcome of your next meeting with the client. Make this a 6 . emphasizing mutual understanding. That meeting concludes with agreement between you and the client on what you will offer to and expect from each other. it is more dynamic than that. This is not a legal contract. and agreement. Take notes throughout the meeting. Assume that the contract you make will be revised later as the work itself informs you.

and reading. have to decide how you are going to learn more about the problem and what surrounds it. asking. information. with the support of your client. After the collapse of the work. It is often labeled “Data Collection”. Write down the response. Return to these notes in the measurement step. when I look back. it is not simply the assembling of dull Inquiry involves a intentional search. One uncomfortable pattern I can see in my career as a consultant: Most of my problems with cleints came through unclear contracting. it comes with a genuine and positive curiosity. I thought I was to do something different from what the client expected. 7 . The contract is dynamic and can be altered whenever the two of you want to change it. You can do any of these in more-to-less structured way. Later. this consulting contract is expected to change. 26 If you have not already emphasized the point. ask the client how she will know whether the project has been successful when it is all over. We thought we understood each other when we didn’t. an openness to what is going on in this place. You. listening. check to see if the memo was accurate. I called it that myself for years. I wanted to do something but wasn’t clear with the client. “Appreciative Inquiry” and it’s disciples would go farther with this--see the Resources at the end of this booklet for more information about the AI perspective and methods. 25 Set up times when the two of you will reconsider how the contract is working. I almost always find a shabby contract was the cause. This way you will both have a copy. But I like the tone of “inquiry” better. Unlike a legal contract. both client and consultant are expected to keep the contract up to date. You will use different methods to explore the organization for the information you need. You gather information by watching. Or. STEP THREE: INQUIRY This step is all about intentional learning—learning about the client organization. And your inquiry in large part will be directed toward people. 24 Follow this meeting with a memo that describes the main elements of the contract. rather Tell the client when you will meet again and what results you will bring to that meeting.conversation with real dialogue.

you need to have at least roughed-out Inquiry before you can Contract. and to have the skills important to the method you are using. For example. Select inquiry methods that are easy to use and for the client to understand... on the telephone. energy. And you your client is involved in each of these decisions. Ask the same managers. This Inquiry step is first --deciding what you want to learn from whom. You may ask people to complete a questionnaire of your own or someone else’s design. You will likely read about what has been happening around the organization. and third--going into the organization with your questions and methods. to consciously select and use a method. Use the materials the client gave you and the few interviews you’ve had to develop your proposal to the client about how you will gather information. You will always talk with/interview some individuals. If the client doesn't understand what you are doing. suppose you were to ask managers. second--choosing methods for learning that. culture). You may gather people in groups to talk with them—or have them talk with each other. One common mistake is gathering information in a way that confirms your assumptions. The key is to be aware of the information you are looking for. Any of these methods and more can be appropriate. it just depends on the project’s purposes and resources (For example: time. 32 Build out bias. in groups. 8 . “What are your three biggest problems in working here?” You would likely leave the inquiry convinced that this organization has BIG problems among the management! But your question created the bias reflected in the data. chances are she will not believe the data that comes out of this step. You may watch people systematically for particular aspects of their behavior.• • • • • • • You will always watch people and interpret what you see. You can do the inquiry yourself. geography. Your challenge: Inquire in a way that does not bias the response you receive. or on-line. “What are your three greatest joys in working here?” Quite a different bias would likely emerge…And both questions combined might not get at the really important issues here. You can deal with people face to face. or you can have people in the client organization do it. Here’s what I try to think about as I inquire: 31 Draft your approach to Inquiry before completing the Contract step. You may ask them to perform certain tasks to see what they do and how they do it. money.

35 Polish your interviewing and observing skills. Inquiry always includes interviewing and observing. This Inquiry step is about getting past what the client figured out ahead of time and into what is really going on. It also allows them to influence your approach. 36 Collect lots of paper and electronic data. The change that happens down the road will require the support of many people. ask what present performance is and what they think it should be. These are the people who invited you in. their performance and their results.33 Gather information in a way that allows people to speak to what is happening at work that is important to them and the organization. do not ask what kind of training they need. Your buttons. If you do. they will tell you. 9 . Instead. it’s just too time-consuming and expensive. The future usually builds on the past. 38 Collect data from management first. ask what is happening at work and what should be happening. Recorded data is all history. Get people to talk about what they know best: their work. 34 When the client first called you. Later in our consulting process. There is no avoiding talking to and seeing people along the way—even if it is just the initial contact person. and you have misled yourself into thinking you have discovered something important…Not likely. and commit to the project. she has already done a preliminary diagnosis that resulted in her pushing buttons her telephone. When you receive her call. If you are a trainer. attending to history also shows the client that you respect their past…It’s not as if everything really important began with your arrival! 37 My idealistic goal is to inquire of everyone who might be invested in the issue and its resolution. you have the opportunity to confirm the client's early and usually hasty diagnosis. And. Or. And people are more likely to support change when they have participated in the steps leading to the change. I never realize this ideal. so paying attention to history will help you be wiser about influencing the future. build their trust in you. But it does bias me toward including more rather than less people. and indicates how things have been done. it has already happened. you can help them decide what needs to be done and consider how you might contribute. Working with them first reassures them about what will be happening in the organizations they lead.

Know that when you are less than open. and. You are biased. and biases your results. You can only help this client when you can use what you learn. Change of some sort—mostly imagined at this point—has already started. People’s expectations will vary greatly and will not be eliminated by saying. the larger part of it truly is interpretation. STEP FOUR: INTERPRETATION I’m tempted to rename this fourth step “Discovery”. 10 . Doing so usually results in premature conclusions and affects the way you collect data from that point forward. 311 Do not yield to the temptation to analyze the data while you are still collecting it. because that is what most engages me… and “Inquiry” and “Discovery” fit so well together. When people load you up with confidential data.” These concerns can be reduced by carrying out the Inquiry quickly and reporting out the results to those involved. you don’t want your comments to influence what they say. important part of this step. They can expect to see anything they tell me in a report. this will be sensed and will affect that data you are given. But discovery is only a small. we all are. they are giving you a responsibility that you cannot carry. Wait until the Interpretation step. “Don't worry. Later on you will make judgments about what ought to be done. I find it useful to tell people that what they tell me is not confidential but anonymous. but written in a way that protects their identity. Give up the notion that you are an objective observer. Know your biases and put them aside during Inquiry. 310 Do not collect secrets or gossip. Be as open with them as you expect them to be with you. Inquiry creates expectations.39 Tell those you involve as much as you can about what you are doing. There are two parts to analyzing the information you have collected: What does it say. you aren't. and you want to be certain those judgments are based on your clear vision of reality. At this point you want to ensure that you are really seeing what is going on in this organization. Tell them what you have learned so far—but not until you have heard from them. Be open about the process you are using.

than it is to move around 8 1/2" x 14" sheets. Because there is much at stake here. What is says is the more literal part.. When you are back at Step Three.What does it mean? how I approach it. be willing to not understand what it all means. think about how you will eventually sort what you learn. then maybe you just don't understand! Being clear too early can mean that you are blind to what is really happening…But then again. 42 It is easier to do this step if your information is displayed so that you can move it about easily. 43 Sort the data three or four ways. Inquiry. Again. maybe you really do understand. Juxtapose separate bits of data so you can build the patterns in front of you.Or shift…And yet another sort would be by common issues. It is safer to test them here than in the earlier step. The client may have been struggling with the issue for years. For example. what it means is the more interpretive part.. that will help you gather information in a way you can better sort it in this Interpretation step. it is a lot easier to move around 3" x 5" cards. but don’t confine yourself to a one bias analysis. each containing twelve to twenty lines of data. the data does not always make sense As the saying goes. if you are not confused. each containing one line of data. Either is 11 . That is what this interpretation is about. How could all of this data make sense in a way that would be useful to the organization? That sense may emerge…or it may have to be imposed…or it may never come about (…my lingering fear). Don't try to finish this step too fast. Sorting data for content (what it says) leads to what it means…At least that’s Piles of data spread out before you…what in the hell does it all say…and what does that mean??? That’s what you and your client have to figure out. Here are my observations on analyzing reams of data with no prepackaged way of doing so: 41 Find the new order. For example. it’s very useful to engage the client in this Interpretation step. Why should you immediately understand it??? A natural part of the interpretation process is to be confused for a while. pay attention to your biases. you might sort the data by who said it. 44 Do not be afraid to get lost in the data. looking for patterns among the job titles or levels of those interviewed…And then you might sort again based on geographic location. withholding your commitment to any one of them. Make sense of what’s in front of you in a new way.

Sorted without interpretation The interpretation—what it means. there are times when no significant patterns exist. when you can. 45 If a clear sort of the information does not emerge. then force one. Sometimes it means there was nothing to find.possible-which tells me that you should consider more alternatives than the first to present itself. she needs to “own” it. The data—what it says. she needs to agree on the validity of the data you’ve collected and understand the way you analyzed it. All of this will be useful in the next step… STEP FIVE: FEEDBACK This step has to do with giving the data and the interpretation to the client in a way that she can understand it and accept it. Yes. If they cannot understand it--or don’t believe it--you will be in the position of selling them on what you think they told you…not a comfortable position for you. She can help your understanding of what the data means. She might say something like. She needs to believe it. ‘No better way to do this than her being there." That’s the ownership we are looking for: She has made this report her own. involve the client deeply in this interpretation step. other times it means you need to know more…and what you have presents you with clues on where to look. To reinforce an earlier point. "Yes…I understand your report…It’s organized in a helpful way…This data is clearly from our organization… I think it accurately reflects what is going on around here. Your product from this step is a written report which contains: • • • • A brief explanation of how the Inquiry and Interpretation were done. This can allow other possible sorts to present themselves. If you want the client to believe your eventual recommendations. And her involvement in the analysis builds her commitment to act on its outcomes.. This is often a focal and challenging meeting with your primary client and others. 46 Shape your resulting analysis in a way that can be readily understood by the people who will be seeing and using it. Identification of who was involved. You are 12 .

For example. they are now being confronted with acting on these issues…And frequently the real issues revealed are different from the presenting issues the client originally called you about. or distorted. avoid committing yourself to an interpretation before the client has even seen the data. Do not ask them whether they agree with the data. invalid. culminating. ask them for the data that is missing. She and others in the room likely had a hand in creating the issues that the report reveals. do not give it all to the client at once. 53 Separate the sorted data from your interpretation of the data. can both preclude her important analytical work and reduce her ownership of your interpretation. that is quite a different point! When people challenge the data as false. Ask them if they agree that this data is probably What is they don’t like your interpretation? What if you are Yes. This often quite timeconsuming. When you can. This is simple and understandable. 52 You’ve prepared the data for feedback. exciting and tough step. You collected the data. IF you can (‘he says. sorted it in a way that will make ready sense to the client. and there is nothing worse than having to quit in the middle of the group’s work on the data. support and eventual action. this is a Here are some tips that have helped me—when I’ve representative of the organization. been successful in feeding back data and my interpretation: 51 Feed back the data in a meeting attended by key people critical to understanding.usually bringing important issues into sharp focus. if your Inquiry process included a series of interview questions. it is a logical extension of the interview process they went through. so you run the meeting. conflicting with what he wrote in the previous step’) do not analyze the data until after the client has seen it in its sorted form. usually your recommendations too! That is a big IF! My Showing your experience has shown that the client wants the data and your interpretation together—and What’s wrong with this. Your sort needs to fit with the expectations you helped create when you contracted with your client. What if they don’t like the data? wrong? 54 Seek their ownership of the data. you ask? interpretation before the client has made her own. Plan meeting time for people to absorb what the data says and figure out what it means. Thanks to your fine work. and add it to what you have already 13 . list each question with the responses you gathered beneath it.

we waste precious client time explaining for too long how we did this. plan: • • • • • What you are going to say. let them know that what they have said has affected you. help them move to interpreting it. As you prepare. They need to know about both the how and the what. 56 Expect some negative reactions. It comes from them and their people. and defensive. but are ready to talk about. What outcomes you expect. with an emphasis on the what. what are they likely to expect?. what does my process suggest about your own? ______________________________________________________________ 14 . briefly feeds your ego but starves your effectiveness. Draw out their interpretation and weave in your own. In preparing your presentation. This is important stuff! If the people in the room had It’s better to build on their work than to present your (no doubt brilliant) interpretation separately in a way that known how resolve the issues. (TIME OUT) We have completed five of the ten steps and we are still a long way from our action step. all of this suggests a more “formal” presentation to the client group. and the client wants to know what we came up with.collected. What you are not going to say. Some people may feel challenged. keep in mind the client’s focus on action and results. they would have done so without inviting you in. criticized. Then do it better. Acknowledge that your analysis was before having heard from them. This feedback step may be their first indication that they are not doing as well as they thought—and they are getting it in in front of their peers. Let’s use the time out to notice how you are liking/not liking this ten step consulting process: How natural does the process feel to you? What has this process asked you to do that you would not ordinarily do? What have you learned from this process? Where do you feel that the process and I are off-base? And. Find out how they typically do this. How you are going to involve them. 55 After they “own” the data. You need not defend the data because it is not yours. Too often we consultants are entranced by our own methodology. What you are going to show. Yes.

it’s time to explore what we might possibly do about it--with the emphasis on "possibly. The result can be a less creative and less complete solutions. 61 Develop alternatives against your clear. Do not preempt them. Then. they are more in control. Help clients develop alternatives. Having thought of alternatives ahead also allows you to ask questions and present thoughts that stimulate the clients to deal more seriously with the data before them. shared interpretation of the situation. 62 Involve the clients in developing the alternatives. analyzed it. This potentially creative step is not as limited by practical considerations as are the two steps that follow--Decision and Action. time pressures. the amount of support they will be asked to contribute to the eventual decision.STEP SIX: ALTERNATIVES Now that we agree on what the data says and what it means. Decisions made. 15 . draft alternative actions to take with you to this first meeting. give the deciders increased confidence in their actions because they know they have deliberated. but do think ahead. this step intends to slow us down enough to consider the array of actions we might take before we decide what we will do. Do not make them into a beautiful report. Their involvement results in more and better ideas without sacrificing any of the ideas you have developed. Offer your alternatives. and still not met with the client. The amount of client involvement in this step depends on a number of factors: their expertise in your area. but do have good ideas on what the client might do next. we run up against clients demands to move ahead and may have to compromise. Three actions you can perform within this step include: • • • Develop alternatives. Plan how you will involve them in developing their own alternatives. 63 If you have collected data. weave your alternatives in with those that come from the clients. Our cultural bias toward action often means this Alternatives step gets short shrift. chosen from alternatives." Too often we and our clients rush to judgment and action. plus a set of parameters related to the desired outcomes—look for these in your early Contract step. and your own ability to generate alternatives. Again.

Both usually involve people who were not there when you and the client began this consulting process. where. it’s best to involve people who will be affected by the decision. Where Alternatives involves a creative reach outward.STEP SEVEN: DECISION The Decision is usually wound up with Step Six: Alternatives. or decision-makers—or the boss can make the decision on her own if she so desires. and you want it to be well supported. or advisors. Whatever the roles of all involved. because they involve such different skills for you. People affected by the decision. the Decision involves a narrowing in on the choice. 72 Involving people does not necessarily mean they make the decision together. if possible. they will have complete and shared understanding of the data. Suggest to the client that she invite these kinds of people to the alternative-building and decision-making meeting: • • • • • People with related and useful expertise. They may act as listeners. 71 For the decision to work when it is taken to Action (in the next step). help the client lay out who will do what. the consultant. Before the meeting. If they choose a decision because it is sold to them. I only sort them out here And also for the client. 74 Try to keep the client group from making the decision until they have heard all the alternatives. their implementation of it will be less than enthusiastic. People whose commitment is needed. They will have to live with this decision from day to day. After the decision. its interpretation. make sure that they know their role in relation to the decision. People with necessary authority. and the alternatives before the decision. and by when. Part of this is considering the consequences of each of the more viable alternatives. Make this widely understood among those present. People who need to support the decision. 73 Make sure that people know what is being decided and the potential impact on them and the organization. Those specifics will inform what happens next in the 16 . Ideally.

now that they have pointed themselves in the right direction. 83 Help the key leaders find and take specific. immediate action that demonstrates change in line with the project’s direction. With this action step. Resist the temptation to relax now that the client has decided to act. observable. For example. meet their first real test with this action step: resistance to change. the client’s real talents come to the fore. dynamic relationship between the action that is beginning and what they participated in earlier. I feel like turning them loose. interpretation and planning will be lost if the momentum is not maintained. building on the momentum established in earlier steps. Many organizations are much better at action than they are at preparing for it. or training would help people move into action more quickly? 17 . heavy with committees and They are too talented in bureaucracy. • • • What could key leaders do right now? They are the models others will look to. Others. that is threatening! Here are some ideas that seem to help: 81 Encourage immediate action. Current action should be consistent with earlier plans and the underlying assumptions. preparation and lack the will to act. STEP EIGHT: ACTION You and the client have done a lot of work to get to this Action step. Very important work is about to begin. Participation put aside in favor of unilateral direction would undermine the project. familiarization.Action step. Momentum is precious. Without you. we were just talking about it. the client no doubt would probably have acted earlier--and would certainly have acted differently. don’t squander it! 82 Participants involved in the last few steps of the process should see a direct. but now that we are beginning action. help it happen! All the good inquiry. if earlier steps anticipated involving a wide array of people. that should be happening in this action step. This action step may be the first point that you detect Before now. (That same truth stands for many of us consultants too—at least in our private lives!) With many clients. What could an individual employee do? How is the organization supporting that? What information.

STEP NINE: MEASUREMENT We arrive at a most difficult and often neglected step in the consulting process: Measurement. Know that you will have problems. Anticipate those problems and develop contingency plans for dealing with them. Your and their idealism can put you on what looks like a constantly rising. they feel the change has been instituted. I’ve seen more projects fail for this reason than any other. you don’t. The more noble your aspirations. Make "unexpected" problems "expected. Certainly help." Help your clients build this anticipation into their actions in Step Seven. Few of those involved look forward to it. but they should be extending far more energy than you. see them as a measure of commitment to and understanding of the project. they shift their attention to more immediate priorities. or lack commitment. I’m not in love with it myself! If the project is very successful. 86 Expect setback and help your clients expect them. starry path. It’s their organization. are neglecting it. the more likely problems will occur. My most common difficulty with this step: Project initiators and leaders feel great about what they have done. 85 Find ways to coach and counsel your clients through their new actions rather than taking over and doing it for them. they expect others to carry it out. Even support changes that don't work that well. 18 . Encourage and lead meetings that help people review how they are doing.• • How could recent changes be communicated across the organization? What could be done to reinforce individual and group initiative that supports the change? Carry out your part of the action promptly with no doubt that others will do their parts. accept their success and slippage. people are inclined to celebrate their successes and exaggerate accomplishments. Avoid your tendency to “fill the breach” because you think they don’t know how to do it. and figure out what they could do to build on their success. not yours. support the fact that they were tried. They live here. All these ideas are ways of maintaining the project progress and priority through time. 84 Observe early actions closely. Support and reinforce people who are trying new behaviors as a result of the changes being instituted. Be a good and public example of support for the changes being implemented.

but not without some losses along the way. we might be able to quantify the time and money we put into it. Most often. and I cannot control their conclusions about me. Nobody knows how much difference this change project made in any absolute ways. products. morale. “I’m being held responsible for something I do not control. certainly be talking about them during the project as well as at the end. I’m reporting on what I’ve seen myself and clients do. The following ideas can be useful in either dialogue: 19 . services different because of this project? Meeting our contract: How well have we honored our original and evolving agreement? Learning: What have we learned as a result of this project? You should These are the kinds of questions you and your client should be talking about.” Or.If it fails. image. we didn’t come close to accomplishing what we intended in the beginning. the results (so far) are some combination of success and failure. there is also your internal dialogue. These concerns should not outweigh the organizational necessity of asking: How are we doing on this project in relation to what we intended? Are we getting what we wanted? How has the organization been affected? What have we learned along the way? How does what we did affect what we will do next time? • • • • How is our client-consultant relationship developing? Most measurement questions can be sorted into four realms: Impact within the organization: What is happening differently: What is being done? How are people behaving? How do they feel? What do they understand? Results outside the organization: How are the outcomes. As in. evaluating your work. We made a net gain. To the first point. it can’t be accurately done. Yes. but what about the energy? The commitment? The excitement? And the same holds for what comes out of the effort. participants often run for cover—including the consultant! I’m not bragging about this. and secondly. the breadth and depth of the impact of even a small change effort seeps out in directions to numerous and expensive to document. but we did make a significant difference. “I am being measured by others who do not understand. And to my second concern: Measurement of our project often links to our own issues related to personal responsibility and control. We have at least two difficulties with measurement: First of all.” Measurement works much better when approached as the opportunity to learn--rather than with the possibility of punishment. we might be held accountable. In addition to the dialogue between you and your client. Or.

For example. You don't want to find out about problems that late. it often happens and can be quite constructive. 94 If you want regular progress reviews with your client. you will have to initiate the meetings. Success reinforces mutual commitment to the effort. When there are other consultants involved. you analyze. when. and how. Organizations attempt to measure what is important to them and don't measure what is unimportant. 93 Do not make measurement a separate project. 97 Help your client (and yourself) understand that your attempts at measurement will fall far 20 . Another example: When the client is planning actions. give progress amongst yourselves. And. Help your client see measurement as When it is added necessary to project success rather than tacked on as an afterthought. or to reinforce areas of weakness. you decide what to do. Most of my clients only initiate an evaluation. Build in progress reviews that happen regularly during the project. it can be destructive. Push to have the project evaluated. 92 Do not wait until this ninth step to measure. check with yourself to see that you are getting what you want out of this project. encourage them to build in meetings to assess the actions. When it is planned for ahead of time. to recognize successful actions. you consider what to do. This ties back to the Contracting step. after reviewing the data coming from Inquiry and Interpretation. you act. you feedback what you learn. Know who will do it and how much it will cost in time and money. and often result in early identification of potential problems. because of immediate concerns. chances are. Clarify what will be measured. it builds trust. there is a very positive side to regular reviews: together you can look at the success you have had together. Instead. make sure that you check This will knit you closer. check with the client on how the project is going. update. recognition to key players. 96 Consider measurement as another version of the Inquiry-through-Action steps in this consulting process. Isn’t that what you do when you evaluate? You inquire.91 Expect this project to be evaluated. or progress review when they feel like they are trouble. and it’s sure nice to be able to remind yourself of it when the bad times hit! 95 Separate from the client. incorporate measurement actions into plans in the Action step discussed earlier. reveal results to celebrate.

the organization should know enough about the project to help it succeed. has more the feel of a birthday party than an audit meeting. Exiting means saying. This is more difficult than it might seem. And it is also an opportunity to suggest getting together to close the project in person. and acknowledgment—of what you have gained through your work together. we have little more to do under our agreement. The report helps both you and the client step back from the work and collect your thoughts before letting go. maybe some acknowledgement about what everyone poured into this work you all did together. Closing often involves some combination of reflection--on at what you’ve done together. "Our work together is winding down. how might we best conclude it?" Perhaps these ideas will help you decide what to do: 101 A summary report from you near project completion is one good way to acknowledge the work is coming to a close. that was in the previous step of this process. measurement as a sign that their work is worth following. a near-tragedy that everyone can laugh about now…And. Evaluated projects get more attention than unevaluated projects. And that is just fine! Asking what has happened affects what people do and see and makes a positive difference in the results achieved. This is the time to recognize the group more than individuals. STEP TEN: EXIT It is time to finish your work and leave--at least for now. That’s likely happened with you and your client…and perhaps with some others in the client organization. especially with a very successful project. Not an measurement session. important. this separation. it is valued. How might you best end? There are better ways to exit than to just walk out the door. No. This project is finishing. they usually deliver better results. When people know that Some people see this If your project is their project is being measured. And sometimes liquid refreshments and/or cake are involved! 103 Create a small occasion. deserves more and less recognition. this is not the time to objectively sort out who It’s a good time with good feelings.short of accurate. 102 One of the primary ways that people build relationships is through working together. this closure. There may be a little storytelling about some particular triumph…Or. and may last ten 21 . Others perform better to avoid looking bad or because they think they are being watched.

close consulting support. and you valued the experience. And. And separate that celebration from considerations of other work. 105 A successful project often means a closer and unique work relationship with this client. Make an appointment to talk about future work in more sober moments back at the office. the client already knows your work. Tell how the project has positively affected you. Wonderful! Celebrate it—as discussed above. Sure. let’s take one more look back over the ten step process: 1. Some of are rewarded within our consulting firms for helping our clients understand why they cannot get along without continued. Just call to catch up and remember the good work you did together. Tell a few stories.minutes or over dinner or over a weekend. Don’t build on the emotion of the moment to propose more work. Watch for this temptation in yourself. 22 . ENTRY CONTRACT INQUIRY INTERPRETATION 3. SUMMARY Before we finish this booklet. you don’t need to do that. I’m not talking about calling to make a sales pitch. 106 We consultants sometimes become dependent on our clients…financially dependent. 2. ask others to tell theirs. there will be an opportunities to check in on future work. we are tempted to make our clients dependent on us. and that you will miss them. 4. or accept work that the client puts forth while under the influence of the moment. extending our contract indefinitely. but that is not the primary intents of these conversations. and ask others how it’s affected them. We end up doing work the client should be doing. or recommending work that does not have the priority we say it does. informal contact. 104 Model the kind of behavior you would like to see coming from others. Acknowledge that these people are important to you. Too many of us derive both our wealth and our sense of importance from making clients dependent on us. maintain regular. After you have exited from the project.

In Decision and Action. • In the Entry step. In Interpretation and Feedback. you gather information. and use those to focus on closing the project. decide action. This reaching out and bringing together is not just a coincidence. There is an important underlying pattern to this process that we have not talked about. 10. You bring this information together in your proposal to the work in Contract. • • • In Alternatives. In the reaching out phase. FEEDBACK ALTERNATIVES DECISION 8. you think creatively.5. you narrow your options and act. It feeds the life of the consulting process. This out and in process is present all through the ten steps. 7. In Measurement. you reach out for the possibilities. • In Inquiry. you reach out to gather information from the larger organization. 23 . you gather this information together for client consideration. and then a drawing in—as in bringing your hands together in front of you. You gather stories about what has happened from all involved. Think of it as a reaching out—as in stretching your arms and hands outward. Even the Exit step has this reaching out and drawing in aspect to it. set priorities. 9. it is as if the process lives by breathing out…then by breathing in. you develop alternatives. ACTION MEASUREMENT EXIT 6. What you gather in your reach feeds the bringing together phase in which you consolidate information. you and the client meet. you decide what actions to take based on that data. both the reaching out and drawing in are involved. You gather data on how you are doing. the client agrees you should go out to see what else you can learn in a short while—that’s the reaching out to gather information. it is the underlying rhythm.

public. Over the last thirty years. 24 .The Author Geoff Bellman is a Seattle-based author and consultant. and social sectors. This booklet is based primarily on two of his books: Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge (Berrett-Koehler. 2001) and The Consultant’s Calling: Bringing Who You Are to What You Do (Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer. 2002). Contact Geoff at 206-365-3212 or geoffbellman@yahoo.com. he has consulted to the private. He has written six books along the way.

Useful to all of us. The Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. Appreciative Inquiry. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. 2000. 1999. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. but especially to newer consultants. Tom (eds. Hiebert. you) can assist a team’s effectiveness. The Beauty of the Beast: Breathing New Life into Organizations.Consulting And Change Resources Biech. High leverage change methods collected in one book including. About our aspirations to change organizations and the reality of doing it. San Francisco: JosseyBass/Pfeiffer. A very specific and detailed how-to book for consultants. Second Edition in 2002. Very practical.e. Elaine. Geoffrey. Powerful Professionals: Getting Your Expertise Used Inside Your Organization. Open Space. Holman. A book for readers who are thinking of setting up their own consulting business. and many more. A wonderful analysis of what goes on among people and how a talented facilitator (i. & Devane. Murray and Eilis. Peggy. Twenty assertions about making change work. Block. A classic. Peter. All the nuts and bolts of a practice that you need to worry about—and more! Bellman. 1999. Schwarz. 25 . Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. Roger M. 2001. 2000.). Practical help in all phases of the consulting process. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. Calgary. Canada: Recursion Press. More help on leading groups than you will ever be able to absorb. Future Search. 1994. Alberta. The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future. The Skilled Facilitator: Practical Wisdom for Developing Effective Groups. .

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