After sharing nine ways to go wrong with a consultant, I thought it only fair to provide the flip side. Here are five ways to get it right, plus a bonus one to keep in mind.
- Start with a documented agreement. Spend the right amount of time up front defining scope, approach, timelines and deliverables. Once you have that in hand, hold your consultants to it (reasonably).
- Recognize and respect what consultants bring to the table. You’re hiring for expertise and perspective. At some point your comfort zone is likely to be challenged. That’s the moment at which you want to dive deeper, to understand different (and hopefully helpful) points of view.
- Listen as carefully to the bad news as you do to the good. “I knew it!” can block a lot of learning. Effective advice sometimes requires that you change, as well. Be open to the possibility.
- Involve people. Structure projects that involve your staff appropriately at as many levels as your culture, organization and budget can support.
- Remain engaged. Throughout a project, demonstrate and reinforce your interest in the work. Take personal responsibility for the results. The consultants will notice, but so too will your staff, whose contributions can only make the consultants better informed.
Keep the consultant up-to-date after the assignment ends. A good consultant has as much interest in your success as you do. A call to ask for an update isn’t (necessarily) an effort to squeeze more work out of you. We get better understanding what and how much of our analysis sticks. Talking about progress is something we love to do.