Is your consultant poisoning you?

poison_sign_lBack in May 1988, in Management Today, I Brandon wrote about the signs of client poisoning; they include:

You rejecting the consultant’s proposed solution;
You losing internal credibility through having brought in a consultant;
A failure to tackle the “real” problem;
Early and mistaken declarations of success;
You ending up feeling vulnerable when you implement the consultant’s recommendations.
To avoid the first problem, ensure that you don’t leave the consultant to work on his or her own during the early stages of the project and especially when the diagnosis work is being carried out. Also, you should be heavily involved in the development of solutions.

To avoid losing credibility, ensure that you involve others in the decision to engage a consultant and avoid making a unilateral decision on your own. Consider speaking to the consultant’s previous clients to check out how he or she likes to work with client staff.

To avoid the “real” problem being ignored avoid forcing your definition of the problem on the consultant. Instead, ask him or her to come up with some new definitions of the issues you are facing. You are, after all, seeking to gain from an independent experienced viewpoint.

Avoid early declarations of success by ensuring that you measure not just immediate results but also those over a longer timescale – say six months.

Vulnerability during the implementation stage arises when your consultant has not planned out this stage of the project with you well in advance. Negotiate with the consultant carefully to ensure that you have everything you need to ensure complete success.

Ultimately, your consultant may end up poisoning you if there is not really good two-way communication between you in the early stages and especially if you sit back and allow him or her to just get on with it. As with many things in life you only really get back what you are personally prepared to invest.

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