Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–VII. The Consultative Process: Stages 1 and 2
Usually, the ongoing client is the person to whom the consultant is directly accountable.
The consultant may find the following questions helpful in defining the ongoing client:
If the consultation is successful or a failure, who will be given credit or blame for it?
Who has the authority to change the nature or goals of the consultation?
Who will benefit immediately from a successful consultation?
Who will be responsible for the implementation of any recommendations that emerge from this consultation?
With whom should the majority of information that is gathered during the consultation be shared?
Who is hurting most in this organization and seems to be most in need of immediate assistance?
In answering these six questions, the consultant may discover that several different possible clients emerge. Therefore, a consultant must reflect on the primary purpose of the consultation, and then focus on the client who is identified through those questions that are most closely associated with this purpose.
In general, consultants should identify one person or a small group of fewer than five people as the primary ongoing client. A larger group of people can rarely provide sufficient guidance for a consultation. With a larger group, a consultant typically spends considerable time monitoring and negotiating the interactions between members of the client group. While these activities often provide useful information about interactions throughout the institution or organization, they often distract the consultant from the collection and analysis of information from a broader constituency. Thus, while a large client group is often installed to ensure broad representation in the formulation of a consulting contract, the effect may be to reduce the consultant’s effectiveness in gaining a broad representative perspective about the institution.
The consultant and client also may wish to identify an audience for the consultation. This larger group of people should meet with the consultant frequently, advise the client about the nature and purpose of the consultation, receive most or all oral and written reports from the consultant and, in many instances, be involved in planning for consultant interventions. The audience may be selected on a representative basis to reflect the diverse interests and perspectives of the institution, or may be comprised of those people who are in a position to implement any recommendations that emerge from the consultation. Decisions concerning the client and the audience for a consultation should not be viewed as unalterable. Frequently, a different person or group will be identified as the client after a consultation has begun. An effective consultant frequently asks herself, “Who is the client?” The answer to this question will often have a profound impact on the design and processes of a consultation.