Three models of consultation

December 4, 2007

Most of my work in the past year or so has been designing and managing stakeholder consultation processes. In my experience, there are three types of consultation methods
The first is what I call the Defensive Model where the organisation consults with stakeholders out of a requirement to do so. The process is designed to ‘tick boxes’ and it is invariably created for the purpose of optics.
The second is the Persuasive Model where the organisation has made its mind up about what it wishes to do and the consultation process is a sophisticated publicity and marketing exercise designed to get ‘buy in’ for an already established idea.
And the third is the Discursive Model where the organisation is seeking the stakeholders’ help to ‘think out loud’ about changes or a new direction and the process is created as an inquiry.
I favour model number three because numbers one and two are effectively monologues not dialogues. Number three creates the possibility that the organisation can answer ‘yes’ to the only question that really matters:

Are you willing to change your mind on the basis of what you hear?

I’ve been fortunate to work with clients in 2007 who have jumped at the challenge presented by consultation with stakeholders, designed in a spirit of inquiry and conducted as conversations. What kinds of consultation processes have you been part of in 2007? Monologue? or Dialogue?