How to Hire a Consultant

January 4, 2010

Hiring a consultant is a big decision and a significant commitment of organizational resources – of course, you want to make the most of it!  Here are a few tips for putting that time and money to good use.

  1. Say yes to the goals at the beginning of the project. Hiring a consultant means you as an organization have already committed to doing something new.  Too often, organizations wait until the end product – the report, the final presentation, the recommendations – as if that is the decision-making moment.  In fact, the decision was made at the beginning when the resources were committed.
  2. Work with the consultant as an ally and collaborator. No consultant can “do something” or “fix something” for an organization.  A consultant brings in perspective, resources and expertise, but only the organization can put them to use.  At every step the organization needs to be asking “what does this means for us?” and “how can we put this to use?”
  3. Invest at least as much organizational time and consideration as you ask the consultant to invest. A good consultant provides information, strategies and possibilities designed to catalyze change in your organization – but only the organization can enact that change.  Read everything produced by the consultant, go over it with a fine tooth comb, ask questions to be sure you understand all the data. Then use those materials to initiate conversations and actions within the organization.
  4. Create the circumstances for a new kind of conversation. How can your organization open up to the new possibilities presented by your consultant?  It won’t happen by continuing on in the familiar day-to-day routines.  Plan a retreat, empower a committee, set aside special time on an on-going basis in the regular meeting schedule.  Your day-to-day routines are set up to support the status quo.  You need a different routine to support change.

Hiring a consultant can be an exciting moment for your organization – or an exercise in frustration.  Be a full participant in the change you are seeking. The frustrations will be fewer, and the excitement will be palpable.

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