Discovery & Diagnosis Phase of a Consultant. Angela Glass. March 2, Queens University of Charlotte

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1 Discovery & Diagnosis Phase of a Consultant Angela Glass March 2, 2010 Queens University of Charlotte

2 Discovery and Diagnosis Experience as a Consultant We are currently five weeks into our consulting project, and I just got an from Dr. Ray asking: How do you two feel about the process thus far? And my reply to him was: So far so good. The process thus far has been pretty good; the experience is priceless, and the on going communication encouraging. His made me go back in time and trace a few of the things we have accomplished so far. For example, once we determined we were going to be consultants for the History Cooperative at Queens University of Charlotte, we set off to establish the rules of engagements by means of a contract. The contracting process was pretty much painless, which somehow was a bit scary. I was expecting a little more of a push back or fight back from the client, but luckily she has been nothing but helpful. Once the contract was signed, we developed a very good schedule to follow in order to be able to deliver what we promised to the client. Then, the tough part began. Why do I say that? Well, I keep on going back to our textbook Chapter 10 where Block begins the chapter by saying that when the contract is clear, the work of understanding the problem and the current reality begins. Like Dr. Ray always says: Is this what you know or is this what you believe? This is an excellent point. At the beginning of our relationship with our client, we didn t know what to expect, so we had the tendency to draw conclusions based on what we believed was happening. Soon enough we realized that the only way to know for sure what the client really wanted was by asking questions. For example, we believed that our client was maybe feeling pressured by Queens University to make sure the History 2

3 Cooperative was going to be housed at Queens. In order to know this for sure, we had to ask her if she was being pressured at all. We were pleased to hear her say no. Her answer gave us knowledge, and then, and only then, we knew for a fact that she was not being pressured, and how she felt about the issue. To me, it is extremely important to understand the knowing vs. the believing of what s really happening during consulting. If we believe one thing, but something else is happening, we can spend a lot of time and energy on trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn t even exist. If we want to practice flawless consulting, we need to determine the best way we can help our client. Understanding what is really happening will clear up any misconceptions and misplaced expectations on our part and on the client s part. This discovery phase unscrambled any hidden agendas and it helped us sort out what the client wanted or expected vs. what the client was really going to get from us as consultants. As an outsider looking into an organization, I am in a unique position to offer help to a client with a fresh set of eyes, ears, and ideas. We are not so embedded in the culture that we cannot see [the problem], nor are we so different from our clients that we cannot help them change it. If, however, we simply become a reflection of the way they have always brought their ideas to fruition, we will have left little behind (Block, P., 2000, p. 303). This is so true; we need to break the mold and stay away from a practice that caters to the client just because we don t want to upset the client, or because we don t want to lose the business. We need to show 3

4 commitment, accountability, transparency, and honesty to whatever we promise our client we ll do. As I mentioned before, once the rules of engagement were defined, we were able to determine what type of methodology to use. We decided to conduct a survey among the History Cooperative members as a benchmark for recommendations of their organizational structure. Out of 21 members, we got 17 surveys back, which was a good sample size. Currently we are in the process of digesting the data and letting it sit for a few days before we begin analyzing it. This will be the most challenging part of the consulting process, but I can t wait to see what the data reveals. Our goal is to have enough feedback from the Cooperative s members to determine how they feel about this newly created organization, how they feel about their own participation (individually and as part of an institution), how they feel about their membership endorsement, and how they want to be governed. Finally, I consider this discovery and diagnosis phase of consulting a very rewarding process, not only for the consultant but also for the client. This is the time when the consultant gets to know the client and vice versa. This is the time when the consultant is part of the solution, not the problem. While doing research for another class I come across a quote by Larry Kersten: If you're not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem. As consultants, we must be ethical, shy away from the dark side of consulting, and stay true to ourselves and to our clients. We need to close the gap between promise and reality (Block, P., 2000, p. 321), and the only way to effectively do this is by communicating 4

5 openly and honestly with our client. Flawless consulting offers the possibility to let our behavior be consistent with our beliefs and feeling (p. 11); this behavior affords us the opportunity to be authentic and transparent when dealing with our client, which in turn will make our consulting practice a very rewarding one. 5

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