The last of a three-piece series equipping leaders with a toolkit to get the most from engaging with a consulting team. Covering reasons to work with a consultant , outcomes to expect , and keys to success, each piece outlines the critical elements for an optimal experience, helping leaders realize the full potential of their organizations. Check out the first piece and second piece in the series.
Consultants are consultants because they are trusted for their guidance, because they augment organizations with intel and strategic direction in an area that may be light on expertise. But working with a consulting team is a two-way street, which is why it must be at the right time, with the right people involved – both at the organization and on the consulting team – who have a clear sense of shared values and alignment on vision.
The most successful consulting projects have five elements in common, each an indicator that the effort is likely to produce desired results. If you’re anticipating working with a consultant, keep an eye on these five measures of success.
Your organization is unique, and the data collected by a consultant for your project should be too. Group discussions and stakeholder interviews are essential for gathering the kind of information not captured during business as usual. The questions asked by a consulting team should feel thoughtful and intentional.
Regardless of the nature of the project, every successful engagement involves a consultant seeking feedback from the team to ensure efforts are on the right track throughout the engagement.
Skill and professionalism are what give the project relevance to your particular case, making the engagement worthwhile and impactful. Bright, engaging, and knowledgeable consultants will adapt their communication and working styles to those of your team. They will be able to speak the language, to understand exactly who they are working with and identify ways to communicate that are effective and easily understood. A great consulting team will meet your team where they are.
A diversity of experience and knowledge on the consulting team is also a key indicator of a high-quality project. When a good mix of perspectives is involved, from multiple backgrounds from a variety of sectors, industries, and disciplines, it makes a difference. When you can draw from a rich pool of business, financial, creative, and other lenses, you’ll have a much more informed way forward.
Consulting teams with the most to offer are dedicated not only to the project, but also to making it a meaningful experience for your teams. When consultants demonstrate how much they care about your organization, particularly during the discovery process, it drives motivation and commitment among everyone involved.
A high sense of positivity throughout the duration of the project goes a long way, especially during times when the workload seems heavy. A consultant with a great attitude can mean the difference between a project losing steam in its most in-the-weeds moments and a project with enough energy to make it through to the other side with its integrity intact.
A collaborative process involves creating an approachable environment so that teams feel they can share their thoughts in a safe space where their voices are heard and they aren’t rushed. A collaborative consulting team raises lots of great questions and drives conversations about the organization’s challenges to get everybody focused on the same issues. A truly collaborative project even has the potential to help teams better engage with one another, stay connected, and build stronger relationships.
A collaborative engagement with a consulting team drives inclusivity and is respectful of all contributions, whether people are junior or on the board. An inclusive project has a broad and diverse group of people and opinions at all levels of the organization. Inclusive consultants will take the time to listen and collect everyone’s insights, however relevant they may seem to the project, emphasizing the team’s enthusiasm and commitment.
It’s a good sign when your consulting team is quick to respond, demonstrates time flexibility, and schedules meetings far in advance, with regular check-ins along the way. When meetings and deliverables are on time, with well-articulated agendas and expectations, it means a well-designed engagement that is likely to result in a well-designed final product, with no surprises.
Having clear milestones should result in no surprises, however if new circumstances should arise, great project-management practices make the project agile enough to pivot if required, adapting to next steps without too much interruption.
Bonus: an excited team
Perhaps the best indicator of a successful project is the excitement level of your team in anticipating the final product. When they see some of their contributions reflected in the final product, the implementation process post-consultation will be that much more achievable.
The importance of a successful consulting project can not be overstated. The investment is enormous, from a capacity point of view as well as a budgetary one, should the project not be pro-bono. Teams absolutely must be making the most out of their time and resources. When organizations experience excellence in research, expertise, attitude, collaboration, and project management during their project, the consultation is well worth the endeavour.
For the past eight years, Heather Waldman has been helping companies improve overall performance and impact, and clearing pathways for organizations to realize their full potential. As Executive Director at Endeavour Volunteer Consulting, Heather leads a highly skilled volunteer group focused on providing pro-bono management consulting to improve the organizational capacity and community impact of non-profits. Heather and the Endeavour team believe that all organizations should have access to professional services, regardless of their finances.