Consultants are expected to bring new ideas, solve problems and provide needed expertise. Usually these experts are paid to come in from the outside, fix something and then move to their next client. But that trend is expanding to include internal consulting as organizations need these skills on an ongoing basis to stay competitive. As a result, many internal roles are expected to be consultants to the business too. Often while carrying other operational responsibilities. A true super hero!
If your internal clients have a problem or opportunity, here are steps to ensure you play a consultant role rather than just wear your delivery hat.
- Exploration – Ask great questions and listen. Understand and identify a hypothesis on the general problem to solve. Scope it with your client – which means don’t focus on every problem you see, but rather target the general issue at hand. Continue to work on building trust and a positive relationship with your clients.
- Diagnose – Determine how to best gather information and data. Don’t limit yourself to reports and metrics ~ interview and hold informal conversations to get the facts. What do they tell you? Adjust your hypothesis and present your findings on the root problem. This doesn’t have to be a two month research project, but it’s critical to let the facts lead you to your diagnosis. Often your client may tell you there is one problem, but your analysis will tell you otherwise. Be open to that possibility.
- Develop solutions – This is plural intentionally. Some clients prefer options and most will want to participate in deciding the solution rather than being given the answer. In almost all cases, there is more than one way to solve a problem. To be a great consultant, you have to open your mind to possibilities that you haven’t used before. Take your blinders off and talk to external colleagues to mine new options. This is where the trust you have built will help your credibility in recommending solutions.
- Activate & deliver - Now it’s time to plan the execution of your recommendation. It’s important not to miss this planning step before you dive in. Plan for the change that will be introduced and who will be impacted. Remember to identify the communications needed to make the change successful. Finally, agree with your client how you will measure success. Use your project plan to set you on your way to successful delivery.
Each step is important to be a true internal consultant. Depending upon the situation, one step may be more complex on one project v. the next. Stay flexible – but remember that fast tracking can work against you. Put your consulting cape firmly in place and you can have a great impact on the business.