6 questions every consultant should ask
July 24, 2007
Questions are a key part of my consulting toolkit. In particular there are 6 questions I think every consultant should ask of themselves and the clients with whom they are working because I believe that asking questions of ourselves is a key way to process and analyse information we receive.
1 Who is the Client?
Sometimes the client isn’t the client and it’s important that you are working with or reporting to someone who has authority in the system. If you are not, then you are compromised from the start.
2 What’s really going on here?
The presenting problem is rarely the problem. It may be that the problem is a solution to a particular set of circumstances in the organisation. Treating the presenting issue as a symptom will generally yield more information and possibilities that moving in with a solution
3 What am I listening to? What am I hearing?
There is a difference between listening and hearing (and I’ve written about this topic before). A consultant’s job is to respond to what they are hearing, not what they are listening to.
4 How am I being used?
Consultants are engaged for many reasons and it’s important to work out what task you have been given on behalf of the entire system. It may be that you have been selected because you can offer insight. It may be your task to say the unmentionables out loud. It may also be that you have been selected because you can’t do the job. In the latter instance it may be important for the organisation not to resolve this particular issue and selecting the “wrong” consultant ensures that the status quo is, in fact, the status quo and a scapegoat is being required.
5 Is my experience the client’s experience?
Pay attention to how an assignment makes you feel because your experience may mirror your client’s experience in this organisation. Your experience therefore is a critical piece of systemic information about how this organisation works.
6 What is useful about the client’s experience and problem?
Persistent behaviour (constructive and destructive) has a pay off and a value in organisations and dealing with the pay off is essential if the issue is to be resolved so asking what’s useful as distinct from what’s “wrong” can be a helpful place to start.
There are many more questions to be asked when consulting but I have found these to be a central part of my toolkit. What’s in your consulting toolkit?