Before you hire a consultant and engage staff, board members and constituents in a significant amount of work, it is worth investing a chunk of your own time up front to develop clarity regarding your project’s needs and goals. The clarity you seek at this initial, internal phase is two-fold:
- Clarity about your project’s intended goals, and especially that hiring an external consultant is an appropriate and likely path to meet those goals
- Clarity about your project’s needs, and the best process and structure for a successful consulting engagement for you and your organization
A lack of initial clarity has been cited as the single most frequent cause of unsuccessful consulting engagements. This is why the first phase is so important.
Your first task is to articulate your project to an audience of one -- you. Take the time to:
- Document your need. Describe in simple and concrete terms the nature of the project and the context (problem, challenge, opportunity, and history) of the organization.
- Identify your desired outcomes and deliverables
- Identify what you don’t know, and questions you have – about the nature of the work in mind.
- Define the skills required of your consultant. Do you need a facilitator, someone with specific technical skills, or a generalist?
- Establish a project committee - They will scope out the work, develop an RFP, identify and screen potential consultants.
- Establish a time frame - how much time will you allocate to this project? How quickly does it need it to be performed?
- Determine who will be responsible for the project - who will be the lead contact with the consultant; who will make decisions when they are required?
- Who will do the work? Which aspects of the work will be done by the consultant, and which will be done by you, your staff and board?
- How will you go about identifying potential consultants?