Having been a consultant for a number of years, I have always made it a policy to set some ground rules with the client before starting an assignment. I have found this to be an invaluable step to getting the job that I was hired to do completed on time and to the satisfaction of the client.
Firstly, I make it very clear what the expected deliverables are at the first meeting with the client that hired me. I also ensure that the client is the final arbiter for all conflicts that I may uncover. Also we set a time frame in which we all agree that all conflicts will be resolved. This shortens lengthy arguments between parties who believe they have a vested interest in the final deliverable. Finally, a process to escalate slow decision making is mapped out and agreed to by the client. This is another important method to speed up the process.
If the client cannot agree to these initial ground rules, then it may even be time to cut your losses and find another client. These ground rules establish whether the client is really serious about having you around and serious about making the changes that you may suggest.
This may sound strange. Why would they call you in if they have no intention about making any change at all? Sometimes clients call consultants in to give a show of openness to shareholders or other parties. The various reports and deliverables are then neatly shelved away once you have departed. The entire exercise to call you in was merely window dressing! The client never had any intention of implementing any of the changes that you suggested! This is more common than one might think.
Set up these ground rules and you will be able to get on with your job as a consultant. If you don’t, then you run the risk of being dragged down into the day to day quagmire that is part of every business. Your job is to assess the situation and advise the client and not become another cog in the business machine.
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