One of the challenges of being a consultant is helping your client make needed or desired changes. Consultants can identify the required change, but they don’t have direct control over its implementation. They need to work with their clients as partners throughout the change process.
Is your client ready for change? There are three conditions needed for any change or improvement to become a reality:
- Vision: a clear and concrete idea of what the change is about and what the desired future looks like.
- Motivation: a desire for the change among those who are required to bring about and support it.
- Capability: the skills, abilities, and resources required to make the change happen.
Your job, as a consultant and a change agent, is to help ensure these three conditions are in place when a change or improvement is being considered. The following questions will help you determine if the necessary ingredients are in place for a successful change:
- Has the client articulated a vision of the change or improvement that is clear, concrete, and unambiguous?
- Do those who must implement and/or support the change share the same clear, concrete understanding of the vision?
- Has the client demonstrated by words and action that they have a strong desire to make the change or improvement?
- Do the client’s employees and others who must support the change or improvement have the desire to do so?
- Do the client and the client’s employees have the required knowledge and skills to bring about and maintain this change or improvement?
- Has the external expertise required to implement this change or improvement been identified and secured?
- Are the necessary funds available to support this change or improvement?
- Have strategies for training and other support been identified?
- Have other required resources been identified and secured?
- Is there a detailed action plan for this change or improvement?
- Have the key barriers to change been identified and removed or circumvented?
- Have you identified and addressed the sources of resistance to planning?
- Have you reached a clear understanding with the client about your respective roles and responsibilities?
Encouraging your client to “think ahead” is part of your role as a consultant, and these questions can act as guideposts to help you do just that. For example, asking questions about roles and responsibilities can reveal areas of weakness (if roles are unclear or unassigned). Questions about support or training can highlight opportunities to bring the right talent into the project. Anticipating things that might go wrong, and how to respond, can provide input for building a plan that will work.
As a consultant, it’s your job to help your client identify and break down barriers to planning, to help them plan for change, and to make sure they have everything in place to ensure that the change effort has the best possible chance of success.