As this difficult year moves forward, consultants need to respond to an increasingly unpredictable and volatile world. How can we help to mitigate the confusion, anger, and fear we see reflected in our clients’ faces? Can we make a difference? I think we can!
In the name of good customer service, I used to keep my opinions to myself, proud to be neutral and uninvolved. I told myself this was being professional, that it was good consulting practice. Now, however, I am starting to see things differently. I’m finished with safe findings, vague recommendations that are impossible to implement, and bland reports, acceptable to all and read by none. I want to—no I need to—confront the truth. If I live stronger, my clients will benefit too.
Here are two new strategies I am using:
1. Future Considerations
After we send off our final reports, we basically leave our clients to their own devices. The implicit message is, Okay, now you figure out what to do next (if you can!). We should be more strategic, moving beyond conclusions and recommendations to help clients confront their own futures. Add a final section entitled, Future Considerations, and jointly conduct a SWOT analysis to see what risks the program’s environment presents. It is the best possible time to do this because we have the most recent, most comprehensive program information at our fingertips.
2. Program Knowledge
As evaluators, we are risk averse and parsimonious. We are the keepers of a treasure trove of program knowledge yet we rarely share it. Our clients could be teetering on the edge of survival so it’s time to mine our own experience. Think about similar programs, funders, themes, and scenarios. If we try a little harder, we can be strategic without breaching confidentiality. And we can talk to each other about program outcomes in a real way. Instead of focusing on research case studies, we can share program risks and survival strategies and all learn together.
It is time to live stronger and speak out because as consultants, we can make a difference. As I tell myself, if a door opens, just walk on through!
Gail Vallance Barrington
Originally published in the Independent Consulting TIG Newsletter, Volume 7, Issue 5. March 2017.
Barrington, G. V. (2012). Consulting Start-up & Management: A Guide for Evaluators & Applied Researchers. Los Angeles: SAGE.