Friday, May 19, 2006

Consultant Jokes .. And Then Some Serious Tips From Another Seattleite

No, I have not heard them all. And, if you're worried that you haven't either: Jokes, Consulting joke, Funny Business Consultant Jokes and Management Jokes, Consultant Jokes.

More seriously, the book Getting Things Done When You Are Not in Charge (Chapter 10 "Consulting to your Internal Customers") notes, "When you are consulting with others, get in, help and get out."

Their "Ten Step Consulting Process"
1. Entry. The process starts by someone asking for your help. The client or customer could be an internal customer or someone who reports to you who needs your help. In the entry step, communication skills are key. You must listen to the person describe their problem, what they think may be wrong and their ideas for how to resolve it.
2. Contract. This step involves defining what you will do. You must be clear about your role in the process of finding a solution, what steps are involved, determining how much time it will take and how much it will cost (if appropriate). The skills needed here are creativity (creating a plan), flexibility (being adaptable to your client's needs), partnership (working with your client to define the scope of the problem-solving "project") and vision (seeing beyond your first impressions).
3. Data Collection. The next step is gathering all the facts needed, contacting people who may provide more information and organizing that information. The key skills needed in this step are respect (for the people you contact for more information), partnership (working with the various people involved) and communication (listening to them, understanding what they are saying and transforming that understanding into something tangible). In many situations, you must use appropriate respect when you obtain confidential information that needs to be protected or limited to those who need to know.
4. Analysis. This step involved transforming data into information and searching for key items that provide clues to a solution to the original problem identified by the client. This step involves creativity (seeing the patterns in the data), flexibility (trying different approaches) and leadership (organizing information into a coherent fashion).
5. Feedback. This step gives an update to your client on what you have found so far. At this point, you do not yet have a solution to the problem but your client needs to know your data collection method and the results of that process. For example, suppose you are investigating a complaint about someone and the request came from your boss. You might need to develop a list of questions to be asked of those who know about the situation. In the feedback step, you would present your list of questions to your boss with a summary of the relevant points that everyone agrees on and the differences in their knowledge of the situation. Obviously, communication plays a huge part in this step as does flexibility if your client wants to change the process or does not agree with your interpretation of the data you gathered.
6. Alternatives. This is where your vision, leadership and creativity are most used. You use vision to see beyond the information you have collected and use your creativity to develop new possibilities. As the "consultant" in this process, your leadership skills help you develop a list of alternative actions that would solve the original problem presented to you. You might also ask others to add alternatives and spend some time discussion the outcome of each alternative, which uses your partnership skills.
7. Decision. This step often involves several people, so again communication is important. Use your communication skills to present the alternatives. Your partnership and leadership skills are important in working with all the people involved in coming to a decision about what should be done.
8. Action. This where the results of all the other steps are executed. Communication is important in letting people know the decision and what is expected of them. Partnership and leadership skills are important in guiding people to accept the decision and the actions they must perform. You may need to use flexibility and creativity if some people resist the decision or the action required.
9. Evaluation. This step looks back at the entire process and reviews what happened, what lessons were learned and what might be done differently in future situations. Evaluation will also occur along the way as checkpoints in a large project. This step requires leadership skills in setting an example. If a problem is large enough to take time and energy to solve, isn't it important enough to be learned from? The evaluation step provides time to organize, file or dispose of whatever files were created. It also provides an opportunity to use whatever was learned in a positive way for the future.
10. Exit. This step is the official end to a project. In large projects, this might be the delivery of a final report to the client, requiring communication skills. In other situations, the final step is the acknowledgement that it is done and people can move onto something else, requiring leadership skills.

If I forget about #10 when working with your station, please feel free to remind me. THAT is the hard one.

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