As a consultant I’m an independent person providing professional services to individuals, organizations as well as specific business projects on turnkey basis.
My professional consulting services encompasses a broad range of activities which can be defined by set common characteristic, namely:
- High Expertise: In my consultancy offerings, the product is ‘expertise’. As a consultant I’m well seasoned and also knowledgeable in areas of general management, financial resource mobilization, human resources as well as marketing practice(s).
- Highly Customized: My consultancy services are tailored to meet my client’s needs which seeks significantly customized services of high degree of variance and quality. These are high contract, people based services with high degree of specialization.
- Confidentiality: The consultancies which I offer are provided to clients at personal levels; therefore based on substantial amount of mutual trust and confidence. Credence plays an important role, too.
- Quality: Quality always plays a significant role in the offering of consultancy. Quality is the pivot around which the consultancy service revolves. Clients often expect high quality services from consultants at reasonable rates. If the consultants offer world class services, the task of its marketing is simplified. It is in this context that I make innovative efforts to develop new perception of quality which helps my clients in achieving the desired results.
Role as a Consultant
I consider consulting, essentially, as an art. As a consultant I provide expert services to my clients. Generally, I follow a “curbing the root cause of any trouble” approach by:
- Identifying and investigating problems concerned with strategy, policy, markets, organizations, procedures and methods
- Formulating recommendations for appropriate action by factual investigation and analysis with due regard for broader management and business implications
- Discussing and agreeing with the client the most appropriate future course of action
- Providing assistance wherever, or whenever, required by the client to implement recommendations
In carrying out these activities, as professional consultant I exercise independence of thought and action, deal with the clients’ problems in the right perspective, give well-balanced advice and continuously strive to improve their professional skills and to maintain a high quality of service. As a consultant I see myself as problem solver who is provided with a set issue(s) or situation(s) and asked to make recommendations on how it should be dealt with. I play an innovative role, developing new ideas, methods and systems on behalf of my clients. As a consultant I may act as an “extra pair of hands” doing things which people or organizations are perfectly capable of doing but which they do not have the time or inclination to do.
At times I can act as investigator engaged to carry out an investigation or review of a matter, which is too delicate or complex. Such investigations are necessary where problems faced by the clients are fundamental to the nature of business carried on by them.
I also acts as change agent – when(ever) need arises. He brings change to client’s organization and manage the change process. In this role he’s an facilitator deploying his independent point of view and consulting expertise.
The Art of Consulting
There is a way in which I – as a consultant – render my services in a different way depending upon the specific needs of my client(s) and their own preferences and skills. There is no uniform approach applicable to all clients. The approaches vary according to the main areas in which he’d be working. The possible approach to his consulting services are:
- Strategic Studies: Developing broad strategies and policies and major revisions to organizational structures to meet long term requirements
- Systems Development: Introducing or amending systems and procedures
- Problem Solving: Providing solutions to organizational and management issues
- Service Provision: The delivery of services such as recruitment, selection and training which could be carried out within the organizations
- Process Consulting: I advise and help in process areas such as organization, planning, objective setting, quality management, performance management, team building, conflict resolution and change management
As a consultant I don’t follow typical pattern in the service assignments, but in most assignments he do the following consultancy:
- Problem Identification: In such cases my primary intent is to understand the assignment, its objective and the terms of reference from my clients. Clients essentially begin with their own description and problem(s). I then confirm those descriptions to obtain essential data on the back ground to assignment and the environment in which it is to take place.
- Project Planning: In this process I decide as to what work needs to be done and who’s to do it, the timetable, costs involved and methods of monitoring and controlling progress. These preliminary assessments are then further evolved into much more detailed project schedules. This enables him to specify particular service that’d be needed to deliver at each stage. Planning helps in rendering time bound actions and controlling operations.
- Data Collection: The first stage in any assignment is collection of data about the client organization. Data collected can then be related to environment in which it exists, the type of organizations, it objectives, policies, strategies, procedures and workflows. The data are collected also through interviews, meetings and observations. In complex assignments I may make a detailed investigation into the overall situation in which the organization currently dwells, its culture as well as management style. I can also conduct attitude or opinion surveys to elicit information and data relating to the problem.
- Analysis: In the analysis stage, the complex mass of data and information are closely examined to find key elements. Analysis facilitates the orderly arrangement of data into logical patterns, thus promoting understanding and pointing the way to an appropriate diagnosis of the problem. Analysis concentrates on facts but also subject opinions to critical examination in order to establish the extent to which they are founded on fact. The aim of the analysis will be to provide a precise structure and meaning for the assignment, which will serve as a means of communication and enable those involved to make their judgement within a clearly defined framework.
- Diagnosis: In this process I identify the root cause or causes of problems or the real needs of the organization in the area under review. A good diagnosis will be based on rigorous analysis and will establish not only the immediate factors to be taken into account but the long term causes or implications. As far as possible the diagnosis will be specific, but it might be necessary to present a general picture of the context in which the situation has arisen which has promoted the need for action.
- Recommendation: The recommendations flow logically from analysis and diagnosis. There will inevitably be alternative solutions or courses of action which will have to be evaluated. Good consultants will always formulate their recommendations in conjunctions with their clients. This will involve testing the alternatives and this is often an interactive process as through further analysis and discussion, the way forward becomes clearer. The recommendations and the timetable and costs of implementation.
- Feedback: Though the recommendations are formulated jointly with the client, it is necessary to make necessary feedback of the recommendations. The feedback may take the shape of a formal document, in a highly readable form. At time oral presentations with supporting data may be made available.
- Implementation: The agreement to go ahead with the recommendation either in whole or with amendment should lead to the preparation of an implementation program. The program will contain how he’d help in the implementation of recommendations. In this context, I’m not simply an adviser. I get involved in the process of ensuring that the recommendations which I have contributed will really work.
- Followup and Evaluation: There are times when I am sought to follow up the assignment as well. Follow up is necessary to evaluate its impact and make suggestions on any amendments to the original recommendations. Majority of consultants also gets job satisfaction on follow up when they realize that the recommendations really help the clients.
I use my subject expertise, acquired through experience(s), on behalf of my clients for ultimately it is the skill with which that expertise is used which differentiates me.
- Listening Skills: As effective consultant I listen actively to my clients. As facilitator my role is to gather the ideas from my clients. I elicit information from clients by careful listening. I listens and analyse and interpret the information received from clients. I considers myself as a catalyst of change.
- Communication Skills: I understand the need for good communication skills and the role of effective communication in reflecting, clarifying, interpreting and probing. Reflecting is what makes him as a consultant to mirror the client’s ideas so that they can be expressed more freshly and objectively. Clarifying is rephrasing the client’s statements so that they become clearer, sharper and more precise. Interpreting requires putting together the implications of several statements. In probing, consultants elicit from their client’s ideas and opinion which the latter may not have expressed, or even be fully aware of.
- Motivational Skills: A a consultant I feel the need to have motivational skills to influence the minds of my clients. I’m self-motivated and have a positive mental attitude. I’m, also, willing to adapt to different situations, open-minded and receptive to new thoughts and ideas. I act as a facilitator of change.
- Problem Solving Skills: The success of a consultant depends to a great extent on his problem solving skills. As good consultant I’ve an analytical mind, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. I am able to understand a problem, analyse and solve it with logistics for implementation in a timely and organized manner.
- Decision Making Skills: Another important skill required for successful consultants is the ability to take quick decisions. As a consultant I strongly believe that one must be able to find alternative solutions to a problem and evaluate these alternatives to arrive at an appropriate solution(s).
- Human Relation Skills: As a consultant I am client-focused and committed to meeting the needs of my clients. I recognize my client’s needs, put them at ease while interacting with them, and build trust and respect with my clients. Good negotiation skills are extremely necessary while employing the service of personnel in the service delivery process. I try to build teamwork and maintain long-term working relationship with employees.
- Time Management Skills: Time is the most valuable resource. Management of time is important for timely implementation of suggestions by clients. Time is fixed for all and time cannot be saved or stored. The important aspect of time management is defining priorities that is putting first thing first. “Planning your work and working your plans” is the essence of time management. As a consultant I help in delivering the right services quickly at the place assigned to him and the time that is allotted to him.
The duration of my relationship with client(s) depends on the nature and extent of my service(s) rendered as a consultant. My role has direct bearing on the relationship. I believe that I have the following obligation towards the client which I ensure at all times:
- Providing clients with information: I provide information both external and internal to my client’s organization. External information relates to aspects such as economic, political and commercial relevant to the clients’ problems. The international information relates to the client’s own organization, its structure, strengths, efficiency and inefficiencies. In helping the clients to obtain information, he’s always up-to-date with the latest knowledge and developments.
- Providing clients’ with techniques: I offer my practical methods that can help clients in achieving desired objectives. These techniques are broadly divided into technical and managerial. When I diagnose a problem calling for expertise in a particular technical area, I make it clear to the client that a specialized technical consultant is required. Managerial techniques include flow charts and diagrams, control charts, budgets, cash flow analysis etc.
- Providing clients with Objective Point of View: As a consultant I offer objective point of view when gathering information and conveying opinions to the clients. The client looks upon a consultant as an interested party receiving objective information from me and advising him what to do. As a consultant I try to be not only objective but also informed so that my clients reap the best of my services.
- Providing clients with Problem Diagnosis and Recommendation: Among all the consultant-client relationship roles, providing clients with problem diagnosis and recommendation is the most difficult one. This is because the consultant must tell the client what is wrong. What to do and how to do it. There are also chances of disagreement or conflict between consultant and client in this respect.