Tips to Become a Better Consultant

Tips to Better Navigate the Consultancy World

Updated: Jun 3


They fired Christine.

"They" being the consultancy firm where she was employed for nearly 15 years. This was in the wake of a recent exposé on clients who engaged in unsavory business practices. In her tell-all interview Christine went in detail on how clients misled consultants, set unrealistic scopes of work and wanted consultants to take on a lot additional tasks while the remuneration remained the same.

Though no names were mentioned in the published interview, Christine's demise was due to a simple error. She printe-mail exchanges which referred to the interview and forgot to retrieve the document from her company's printer.

Once the story broke online, it did not take her firm long to figure out that she was the 'inside' source that leaked the information. They dismissed her on the grounds that she violated the company's non-disclosure clause and confidentially agreements that all employees signed. They argued that she did more than expose the company's clients. She also exposed the company to the possibility of being sued.

Anyhow, the backlash to the interview was so intense that a few persons from 'the other side of the fence' (such as the firms that award contracts) wrote an article to respond to Christine's comments. They contend that the interview painted them as monsters and consultants as victims.

Clients are not the big, scary dragon terrorizing consultants!

See an excerpt of the article from the contracting parties below.

1. Clients don't expect consultants to be miracle workers

Let's face it, if a job was easy, we would not call consultants. It is those difficult issues and 'impossible tasks' for which there is no in-house expertise that we retain the services of a consultant. Often times we don't even know the true complexity of our problem and how to solve it. This is why we sometimes have unrealistic scopes of work and a laughable budget. We appreciate the consultant giving us a reality check and telling us what is feasible. However, it order to do this, the consultant needs to be a skilled negotiator and possess superb interpersonal skills. We recommend that consultants spend some time to hone these soft skills and not just bring 'hard' technical skills to the table.

'When you have a next to impossible task to accomplish, who are the women for the job?' Consultants!

We also have a useful guide to help us develop our Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the conducting of evaluations. Consultants can share this document with their clients and partners as one way to reduce the number of badly written RFPs floating around.

2. Clients do not wilfully (or maliciously practise) scope creep

Scope creep is the gradual increase in the scope (s) of work while the price remains the same. Once again, this is oftentimes not deliberate on the part of contracting agencies. Contexts and situations change. New issues emerge as the consultancy progresses. Things we did not think of when the contract was signed, suddenly appear. Remember, we are not the experts and we have no idea how one little addition affects the workload.

Furthermore, we also expect a certain degree of flexibility from consultants (rather than rigidly sticking to every letter of the original scope of work in a changing context). It is great if the consultant keeps the lines of communication open, gives us feedback, documents everything and (re)negotiates the set of deliverables and/or the price.

3. Clients don't mislead consultants (well, at least not deliberately!)

All we will say on this is, 'if you want straight answers, ask straight questions'. Full stop.

'Contracting parties don't walk around deceiving'

4. Clients don't expect consultants to be magicians

We expect you to be the expert that we hired to do a job no one in the organisation could do. The expert who gives recommendations on how to solve the issues and answers the hard questions.

Moving On...

The hiring firms had their say, accused consultants of playing the victim when in fact they are not so innocent and can be quite monstrous at the times. The back and forth between the consultants and the firms continues online.

What do you think? Was Christine right for spilling the beans? Was the company wrong for firing her? Are there really any good or 'bad' guys in the whole scenario? Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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