Choosing the Right Organizational Development Consultant: 7 Tips 

— January 18, 2018


As businesses grow, changes may need to be made to accommodate new departments, geographically diverse teams, and teams that combine different business functions to be more adaptable. Organizational development consultants can help businesses improve their change management, leadership development programs, and overall team effectiveness.

However, finding the right consultant to help your organization improve its succession management process, virtual and/or cross-functional team performance, and the performance of individual leaders can be enormously challenging. When choosing an organizational development consultant, there are many things to consider, including:

Are You Getting a Dedicated Project Team?

Throughout the course of the project, will the consulting firm provide you with a dedicated point of contact (POC) and team that remains constant from start to finish?

The stability provided by a dedicated project team allows them to get to know your people and processes in detail while establishing credibility with your teams. This helps to prevent miscommunications and other missteps that negatively impact the results of the project.

Who is On the Project Team?

Another important question to ask is “who is on my project team?” All too often, consulting firms will field their senior consultants during the sales cycle, but will put junior consultants in charge of the project team once the project actually begins.

As a result, you have a less experienced and effective consultant in charge of your project than you expected—which can negatively impact your results.

What Qualifications Do the People On Your Project Team Have?

Are the people on your project team credible experts? What are their qualifications and experience? While not every consultant has to be a New York Times bestselling author of business development books, you may want to check if members of the team have relevant experience in your industry or dealing with your problem or qualification, such as a MBA or PhD in organizational development .

How Big is the Consulting Firm?

Consulting firms vary in size, and many businesses assume that “bigger is better.” However, this isn’t always the case. Just because a consulting firm has a lot of people doesn’t always mean that they’ll provide better service or results.

Bigger firms tend to have a lot of clients, and your needs might get lost in the shuffle as they compete for attention with the needs of other companies.

Smaller, more agile firms can be a better fit for businesses that need a partner who will pay attention to their specific needs rather than simply applying a “copy and paste” solution for everything. Smaller firms are often more adaptable and willing to customize their services to meet your needs.

How Customizable Are the Firm’s Services?

Is the consulting firm able to adjust the approach or process used to meet the needs of your organization? Or, will they just be doing something one way because that’s their process? Every business has unique needs depending on their internal organization structure, industry, and current situation. So, a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t necessarily going to work well for your business.

Some elements of customization to look for in a consulting firm include:

  • Will they use language that reflects the terms the people in your organization use?
  • Does their learning content utilize situations that reflect the day-to-day issues faced by your employees?
  • Are they willing to co-brand content to match your colors and logo on materials to make it your brand?
  • Can they adapt their approach to help your organization focus on the critical issues that need resolution to meet your goals?
  • Will the consulting firm license specific solutions for you and help you implement them on request?
  • Does the consulting firm have a variety of learning content? Can they provide experts with a deep pool of knowledge in your industry, or ones with broader experience as needed?
  • How scalable is the solution the consultant offers? Can the consultant work on a national or global basis if you need them to?

Is the Consultant’s Fee Structure Project-Based or Hourly/Per Diem?

With an up-front project fee, you’re paying for results. The consulting firm and the team are there to implement and support your project until it is completed or your internal team is fully equipped to manage and maintain any changes made without further support for a predetermined total cost. In this way, the consulting firm is committing to provide certain deliverables for a set fee. They have some “skin in the game” and are incentivized to be efficient and effective when managing the project.

With a per diem or hourly fee structure, the “clock” is always running. Although you’re getting continuous service and support over time, you are paying for each interaction — similar to how you pay for lawyers and accountants. In addition, you may not know what the final fee is until the project is completed. This can create problems for the budget if consulting engagements are not managed closely.

Is the Content and Approach Based on Research?

Does the firm use best practices that are based on research and experience when delivering services such as assessments or succession management? If the firm is using untested processes simply because they’re trying to differentiate themselves or because that’s how they’ve always done things, can you be sure you’re getting the best ROI for your company’s time and money?

The best consulting firms can back up their approach to organizational and leadership development with solid data on what does and doesn’t work for meeting specific goals—whether that data comes from their own research, past engagements or the research of others.

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Author: Rick Lepsinger

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