Monday, April 11, 2011

The critical question for a consultant

like me is, "Who gets to decide?"

No, am not asking, "Who is the decision-maker at the client's end?" I am asking, "Between the client and consultant, who gets to decide?"

One would say, "It's the client's business. He/she's spending the money; goes without saying he/she would decide."

Whoever said that spending money helps one make an appropriate (or a great) decision. In the first place, a consultant is hired because in certain respects the client lacks the capacity to make decisions. And also lacks the skills which would help him take decisions.

And most often spending money would not imply that the client has developed the capacity to make decisions or has learnt the skills which would help him take decisions.

It seems to me that, right at the outset, a consultant must ask the client, "Who gets to decide?" Depending on the answer, the consultant can determine what role he plays. That of a decision-making consultant? Or that of a consultant whose job is just to furbish all sorts of options for the client to consider and take a decision?

A lot of heartburn can be avoided (and satisfaction can be guaranteed) when, for a consultant, that one question is addressed clearly. What role would you be happy/satisfied playing?

And someone might say, "Why can't both take a decision based on mutual agreement/consensus?" Try it. Am observing.