limitations of a consultant

A consultant is often in a unique position in which their external relationship to the organization allows for greater potential for objectivity than the invested client. A consultant has this advantage while simultaneously entering the relationship with a slight disadvantage; they are considered an outsider. The consultant’s external relationship to the organization eliminates familiarity. The culture and accepted norms of the organization may be unfamiliar to the consultant. The consequences of this vital piece of information can sometimes influence the proper assessment of the situation. A consultant, therefore, must rely upon the relationships they create with their client and the constituents of change.

This assignment leans more toward a scenario of an internal consultant, with request to provide perceived problems of a familiar organization. Organizations can face challenges in a variety of manner, such as financial solvency, image concerns, as well as fluctuating performance metrics. The Veterans Affairs administration has faced many of these challenges in their tenure as an organization. In recent years the VA faced several image issues due to discovery of ineffective processes and mismanaged patient paperwork (Schoen, 2017). My acquaintance with the VA occurred over a decade prior. The established practices were archaic to the standards of that time. One major problem was the inefficiency of administrative filing and documentation standards.

As a potential consultant of the VA, the redefinition of the problem would be a clarification of the exact processes desired by the administration to digitize. At the time of employment, my department was still using carbon copy documentation and relying upon staff members to hand deliver copies to multiple departments. The prevalence of available technology amongst the industry appeared obvious to most staff members, yet budgetary constraints limited activity to make organizational changes.

Discovering the client’s focus for solving their problem would rely upon dialogue between consultant and client in which a mixture of open-ended and confirmation (close-ended) questions should be employed. To begin, a basic question such as, “What are you looking to accomplish?” can be made. This informs the client that the consultant is engaged in the endeavor to offer their assistance. The forum for the client to make introductions into the perceived problem has been established. The conversation should develop with open-ended questions to elicit more detail from the client regarding their perceived notion of the problem in their current situation. As necessary, the consultant may interject clarifying questions to assure their accurate reception of the client’s intentions. The precision of the discovery phase will inform the consultant of the necessary plan they’ll construct for presentation to the client.


The discovery phase can be a daunting endeavor (J. Williams, personal communication, July 2018). It takes quite a bit of invested time to research the organization, learn of its mission and values as well as its recent trends within its industry. The consultant must already possess or make themselves aware of competitors to the organization. Their knowledge of best practices, accepted within the industry, should also prove useful as this will create context. The consultant must align themselves with the organization (J. Williams, personal communication, July 2018). Additional open-ended questions are outlined below:

· What is your vision for the organization?

· What are your available resources? (inclusive of budget, human capital, and physical resources)

· What do you feel are your limitations?

· What is your desired timeframe?


As the consultant gathers data from their client, confirmation statements can be used to assure the client and consultant are understanding the same intention. In the case of the VA, a hypothetical consultant may have communicated with senior leadership of the administration to determine the necessity for updating records into a digitized format. Specific departments may have been selected to triage as a higher priority than others (such as medical records of active patients prior to updating records that had existing redundancy measures in place). The consultant may say, “I just wanted to repeat back a few items that you’ve mentioned thus far to assure this sounds accurate to you…”  Confirmation and understanding (Argosy University lecture, 2018) are necessary for the relationship to be successful as it progresses into the next phases of the consulting cycle. Lok (2018) states, that consulting is about relationships and relationships are based on feelings. The consultant’s role should nurture the relationship (Lok, 2018) from the beginning. The discovery phase allows the consultant to create an environment with the client that provides assurance in their plan to move forward together.

The strength of the relationship built between client and consultant begins with the investment shown by the consultant to take the time in getting to know their prospective client. The consultant does not want to be seen as a mere commodity (Lok, 2018) but a resource to the organization. A good consultant will assist in providing a viable solution to enhance the organization (Lok, 2018). The initial outlining of problems and discovery of the true reality of an organization’s solvency can be shocking. The client may feel discomfort or surprise to be shown a glimpse of a problem that was unknown or perhaps avoided. This narrow perception has been referred to as the inability to see the forest through the trees. The client may face disappointment either because of the discovered problems or perhaps out of fear and unwillingness to make changes.

Responsible and direct communication assures the consultant can effectively navigate conversations with their clients and provide reasonable assurance that options may exist. The client needs to have hope their problems, or challenges, can attempt to be solved.  Once the consultant has conducted a thorough search and discovered a satisfactory amount of data to make their conclusion, a pitch is given to gain commitment and proceed with a contract. It is the consultant’s responsibility to show investment to the client as well as present the notion that the client cannot achieve the success they desire without the assistance of the consultant/consulting firm.  The research (discovery) garnered by the consultant should provide confidence to the consultant to sell this idea to their client.

The initial stage of discovery allows the consultant to construct a presentation that should intrigue the client. Their goal is to gather enough attention to bolster deeper commitment. As consulting is more relational than transactional (Lok, 2018), the initial discovery phase may better be suited to occur external to the confines of structured inquiry. The consultant should be confident in their skillset, industry knowledge, and research about the client to host an introductory discovery session. Further, more measured discovery should occur later in the cycle, upon collection of additional data and subsequent analysis. The consultant, once again, may dialogue with the client to discover more details of their needs to get a better understanding of the heart of the problem (Argosy University lecture, 2018) . That information should then be calculated into the diagnosis and intervention design (Argosy University lecture, 2018).

The consultant may experience a myriad of emotions when asked questions that make them conduct self analysis and reflection. Change and flexibility are essential characteristics of successful organizations (Buono, 2011). The client’s willingness to engage with a consultant shows their interest in maintaining relevance and sustainability. The discovery phase is a necessary component of the consulting process and step toward making positive change.

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