Simple & Smart: Five Practical Steps to Maximize a Consultant’s Contribution

Vikki Pryor
Founder

The workforce has been evolving for quite some time. Trends indicate that the typical “nine to five” has been chipped away by a new approach based upon getting results quickly and cost effectively to keep up with competition and the pace of change. The new priorities also weight meaningful work impact and job satisfaction more heavily than stability and security. These trends have resulted in a profound rise in the number of independent consultants who are rewriting the rules by setting their own hours, pay, and choosing the jobs they will take.

Following are a set of steps that can help navigate the world of working with consultants. They will also help manage risks and improve results.

  1. Compatibility: Assessing the skill of the consultant working on your project is only half the battle. It is important to ask, “Who and what make up my organization?” Critical is matching the consultant with the assignment. This goes beyond education and experience to include, style, preferences, values, and temperament. Utilizing a standardized assessment tool at the beginning of an assignment will help ensure a match.
  2. Goals: Set a shared view of the assignment, what will be accomplished, when, and by whom. With the sense of urgency to get started and problem solve quickly, the required upfront planning might be sacrificed. To ensure a satisfying outcome, everyone must agree on the general game plan upfront, and in writing.
  3. Communication: Just the right amount of communication is the key to assignments that exceed expectations. When we fail to communicate, our natural tendency is to assume or infer. This almost always results in an inferior process and outcome. Communicate as frequently as needed, no more and no less. Build in a specific baseline for regular communications so that everyone can plan accordingly.
  4. Metrics: Setting and adhering to measurements and timelines ensures “happiness” on both sides of the table. Everyone wants to avoid the situation where a consultant seems to never “go away”. It is far better to meet goals and timelines and start a new project if needed. This allows everyone to enjoy and appreciate a sense of accomplishment.
  5. Outcomes: Typically, an assignment is viewed as successful when the consultant has exceeded client expectations. How does this happen? At minimum, the consultant must achieve the stated goals on time, and within budget. But the exceptional result comes from achieving outcomes that the client never anticipated. Working with a consultant who has “stretch” outcomes in mind goes a long way towards achieving superior outcomes.

Simple & Smart: Five Practical Steps to Maximize a Consultant’s Contributions ©Change Create Transform 2015