Business — Banking — Management — Marketing & Sales

Development of consulting skills



Category: Training

Introduction to Consulting

There are many definitions of consulting, and of its applications to problems and challenges faced by management. The first approach takes a broad functional view of consulting. For example Fritz Steele defines consulting in this way

«…any form of providing help on the content, process, or structure of a task or series of tasks, where the consultant is not actually responsible for doing the task itself but is helping those who

are»

These and similar definitions emphasize that consultants are helpers, or enablers, and assume that such help can be provided by people in various positions. Thus, a manger can also act as a consultant if he or she gives advice and help to a fellow manger, or even to subordinates rather then directing and issuing orders to them.

Peter Block suggests:

«You are consulting any time you are trying to change or improve a situation but have no direct control over the implementation… Most people in staff roles in organizations are really consultants even they don’t call themselves consultants.»

Management consulting

One approach define management consulting as an advisory service contracted for and provided to organization by specially trained and qualified persons who assist in an objective and independent manner, the client organization to identify management problems, and help, when request, in the implementation of solution

The second approach views consulting as a special professional service and emphasizes a number o f characteristics that such a service must posses.

We regard the two approaches as complementary rather then conflicting. Management consulting can be viewed either as a professional service, or as a method of providing practical advice and help. There is no doubt that management consulting has developed into specific sector of professional activity and should be treated as such. At the same time, it is also a method of assisting organizations and executives to improve management and businesses practices, as well as individual and organizational performance.

Peter Drucker wrote:

«What is unique to management is that from the very beginning the consultant played a key role in development of practice, the knowledge and the profession of management.»

Thus the quintessential nature of consulting is to create, transfer, share and apply management and business knowledge. The term knowledge, as used in his saying, and in most of the literature of knowledge management, encompasses experience, expertise, skills, know-how and competencies in addition to theoretical knowledge. Thus, knowledge transfer is concerned not only with the knowledge and understanding of facts and realities, but also with approaches, method and capabilities required for the effective application of knowledge in particular economic, business, institutional, cultural, administrative or organizational environment.

Why is the consultant needed?

Lack of expertise — usually SME’s do not have expertise in all the fields that why they apply for consulting services.

Lack of time — SME very often are lean resources companies and time recourse is one of the most important.

Lack of experience — Even if they may have expertise they might face problem in terms of experience

Staffing flexibility — SME’s do not have difficulties with hiring the consultants from the outside of the company.

Objective outside opinions — SME’s need a third eye or fresh brain from outside to improve the business performance.

New ideas — consultant is the person who can easily bring fresh ideas and alternatives for

SME’s

Speed and efficiency — due to consultant inputs the SME can perform the improvement project faster, better and cheaper than using internal resources

Assessment — the evaluation techniques are coming together with consultants experience and expertise. Often they are adapted to the specific business of SME. Also consultant may have offer access to SME for the benchmarking data.

Resolution means that the SME’s manager decision is more likely to be appropriate and right.

• Compliance — the decision token is the really one that can answer to SME needs. Why do people want to be a consultant?

A lot of studies were made in this regard. Thousand of consultants were interviewed and the mainly tangents why do people want to be a consultant are as follows:

Own Boss — people do not want to have superiors and autocracy.

No set schedule — rigid schedule or imposed one often is ignored by consultant.

Greater opportunities — in terms of profits and career development.

Do my own «thing» — during the decision taking process you act only on own reflections

Easy start-up — minimal capital investments requirements in order to start

Freedom — related to 1,3 and 4

More money — this is simple by not sharing huge administrative costs and profit sharing

Out of Work — offer the possibility to have the second/third job

Security — you’ll never be fired by yourself

Creativity — consultant by definition should be creative individual by having an «helicopter» view.

Travel — if you like traveling then consulting is your vocation

Challenge — always facing new perspectives, peoples and businesses

Location — doesn’t matter were you are located.

As it is stated in the above mentioned text you can easily observe that it much cheaper for SME to hire the right experienced consultant then use internal staff (cost of training and development)

The role of performance consultant

A performance consultant is one who facilitates doing better work and can de adopted by anyone with any job title.

It is important to determine how the assignment will be conducted by the two parties: consultant and client

What role will be played by the consultant and what by the client? What will be their mutual commitment?

Who will do what, when and how?

Does the client want to obtain a solution from the consultant, or does he prefer to develop his own solution with the consultant’s help?

Is the client prepared to be intensely involved throughout the assignment?

Are the specific areas that the consultant should cover without trying to involve client? And vice versa?

During the assignment, many unforeseen events may occur and new facts may be uncovered so it becomes necessary to review the original definition of expectation and roles. Both the client and the consultant should be alert to this possibility and be flexible enough to adjust their contract and work arrangements.

The consultant often plays the role of specialist or communicator of knowledge «We need a professional sparring partner, in particular in concretizing visions and strategies. We lacked knowledge at expert level in specific fields. We also needed a professional process manager to ensure that the project was finished and that the time schedule was observed. Because of our internal marketing we also needed professional experience and counseling in the further communication process.»

Roles of consultant

Role of the consultant

Characteristics

Provider of information Targeted solution to specific problems/tasks

The consultant transmits expert knowledge to the client Specific suggestions for solutions

Provider of knowledge A problem-solving process which describes the goals

The consultant uses analytical knowledge Specific suggestions for action

Sparring partner A problem-solving process which formulates the goals

The consultant uses/transmits expert knowledge Specific suggestions for solution and action

Talk partner Goal-defining process

The consultant uses process knowledge Setting up a framework of understanding

Project manager Targeted problem-solving process

The consultant uses expert and managerial knowledge Ensuring and controlling solutions and solution processes

Process manager Targeted problem-solving process

Consultants use expert, process and managerial knowledge Strengthening competence development

Necessary requirements for a performance consultant:

Action mindset;

Clear understanding of the many factors in the workplace performance;

• Good set of facilitation tools

There are different consultants…

• Process consultant (generalist) is the person who knows the process of solving the problem and can facilitate every improvement and problem solving project to achieve good result

• Expert consultant is the one who come with solution for the specific business problem.


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