I identified five steps for our consulting practice at eSolia, which include Agreement, Discovery, Feedback, Implementation and Recycling. If the consultant takes care to complete each step diligently, he or she will find that the consulting process goes more smoothly, and overall it is better for business.
Agreement: The first step in the consulting process allows us to come to a clear understanding with the client as to what each party wishes to achieve, and how they are going to approach the engagement, working up an equitable engagement agreement document to act as a touch-point throughout the engagement. I think the agreement is best kept simple but thorough enough.
Discovery: Discovery is the bulk of the consulting engagement, where the key dialogue occurs that allows us to act as a catalyst to convince our clients to take action. Here, we identify the problem clearly focussing on both the presenting and root challenges, select problem dimensions to study, pick engagement team members, decide data collection methods, and then collect, filter and summarize the data. Finally, an analysis of the data is performed to prepare for the next step - feeding back to the client. Our job in discovery is to collect then cut.
Feedback: Feedback is the step in which we take the results of the Discovery process, and assertively feed back our recommendations to our client. Here, we create a focused feedback report from our findings, condensing them into relevant actions against challenges our client can control. Our primary goal in Feedback is to work with our client to come to a decision about which actions to take. There are some key phrases here - "assertively feed back", "changes the client can control". I think we should pick a path and feed it back assertively, without flinching, but, the changes you are recommending have to be something the client can do something about.
Implementation: The Implementation step is where we assist our clients in implementing the plans everyone has had a hand in creating. eSolia professionals recognize that this process is not just technical step-by-step execution, but also requires acknowledgement of relationship and commitment changes during the process. To this end, we attempt to create an atmosphere of trust where team members can express their opinions or reservations fully, and in which listening and presenting occur in equal measure.
Recycle: The final step is to perform a "post-mortem" on the engagement to decide if there is anything else that needs solved, whether to extend, recycle or terminate. At this stage, we feel a certain success if our client can solve related problems independently, the next time around.