Peter Block is the author of Flawless consulting – A guide to getting your expertise used. Starting point are the following three consulting goals. Establish a collaborative relationship. Solve problems so they stay solved and ensure attention is given to both the technical/ business problem and the relationships. To achieve this, you have to follow four phases and you must make sure you complete the requirements for each phase before you move into the next phase.
The four phases and their requirements are:
- Negotiate the client and your own wants, cope with mixed motivation, surface concerns about exposure and loss of control, and understand triangular and rectangular contracts.
Discovery and inquiry. Layers of inquiry, political climate, resistance to sharing information, and the interview as a joint learning event.
- Feedback and decision to act. Funneling data, presenting personal and organizational data, managing the meeting for action, focusing on the here and now, and don’t take it personally.
- Engagement and implementation. Bet on engagement over mandate and persuasion, design more participation than presentation, encourage difficult public exchanges, put real choice on the table, change the conversation to change the culture, and pay attention to place.
- Result By definition, being a consultant – and not a manager – means you have direct control and responsibility only for your own time and your own support resources. The line manager is paid to take responsibility for what the line organization implements or doesn’t implement!
Accountability If I – know my area of expertise (a given), behave authentically with the client, tend to and complete the business of each consulting phase, and act to build capacity for the client to solve the next problem on their own, I can legitimately say I have consulted flawlessly.
The book explains what to do during the different phases, what kind of meetings can be or must be held (including checklists). You get practical guidance on how to ask better questions, gives suggestions for dealing with difficult clients, and contains expanded guidelines on more engaging forms of implementation. It describes the important differences between internal and external consultants. What kind of resistance can you face, what does it mean and how to deal with resistance? Several examples are given including two outside the consultancy world. One taken from the health care and one from educational reform efforts.
In the book you can find several handy checklists:
Assessing the balance of responsibility: Rate who is taking responsibility in a project you are engaged in.
Analyzing one of Your contracts: Practice writing up elements of your contract.
Planning a contracting meeting: Answer these questions when you are planning a contracting meeting.
Reviewing the contracting meeting: Questions to answer after the meeting.
Planning a discovery meeting: Planning guidelines to aid in data collection and prepare for resistance.
Reviewing the discovery meeting: Questions to answer after the meeting.
Planning a meeting for action: Guidelines to help you prepare for the meeting.
Reviewing the meeting for action: Questions to answer after the meeting.
Preparing for implementation: Reminders on working the elements of engagement into the implementation phase.
Reviewing an implementation event: Questions to answer after the Implementation phase.
To download these checklists, visit www.flawlessconsulting.com where you can find much more resources too.
Conclusion. A must read for consultants. If you just start or if you are already a very experienced consultant, this book gives a lot a very useful insights, practices, checklists, examples, and a way of thinking and working to build the right relationship with your client and to avoid disappointments on the client’s or your own side.