Top Tips for Choosing and Using External Consultants

Many organisations find that consultants fail to deliver what was expected, and yet, many consultants experience a sense of sheer frustration because of scope creep or lack of clarity because expected outcomes have not been clearly defined.

Consultants thrive on their reputation

 so, before you consider hiring a consultant, consider these tips to ensure you work well together:

Tip One
Define what you want to achieve. Identify measures of success. How will your organisation benefit from the consultants expertise in measurable terms?

Tip Two
Avoid the quick fix, like plasters they are a temporary solution. Identify realistic timescales and avoid shortcuts. Break “problem identification” and “solution implementation” into separate phases.

Tip Three
Assess organisational readiness. Take a global view and consider integration with ongoing projects in your organisation. Identify barriers and resistance to implementation  – be realistic, consultants are not magicians!

Tip Four
Ensure that the consultant is the right fit for your environment. Request proposals and explore what the consultants experience is in working with organisations and projects of a similar nature. Ensure all your concerns are addressed. If you find the right expertise and the wrong fit for your culture consider alternative approaches.

Tip Five
Clarify deliverables ask the consultant to describe tangible examples of deliverables and ensure they are specific in the contract.

Tip Six
Always contract with the consultant. Clear, explicit and agreed contracts can help to avoid misunderstandings and legal proceedings. Ask the consultant to provide a risk assessment before contracting, they have a wealth of experience and can often identify the dangers you have failed to consider.

Tip Seven
Ensure access to essential documents in a language that the consultant can understand. Consider all confidentiality issues surrounding the project and if necessary ensure the consultant signs a confidentiality agreement

Tip Eight
Ensure internal roles are clear, consultants do not work in isolation, they need support, and access to suitably influential internal staff is essential to executing the project. Free up the time of staff associated with the project prior to commencement.

Tip Nine
Avoid the dangers of “Scope Creep”! This can occur when the project parameters are unclear, as a result of the impact of an unforeseen event, and occasionally dishonesty on behalf of the consultant who enhances the job in the hope of additional work. . Be prepared to postpone, re-negotiate the project until you can get it back on track.

Tip Ten
Ensure regular and 2-way feedback, to resolve issues as soon as they arise. Ensure the consultant does not save any nasty surprises for the final report, and ask for any contentious/confidential issues to be written into a private letter if necessary

Tip Eleven

Develop internal expertise – identify and assign individuals to work alongside the consultant encourage them to be curious and learn from the consultants methodology, approach, behavioural techniques.

Tip Twelve

An efficient consultant does not want to encourage dependency and will be keen to discuss transfer of initiatives for the benefit of your business, change can be  exciting and uncomfortable – be sure to engage in those conversations and identify implementation strategies that will fast forward your change initiatives.

Ask Questions to determine the extent to which the consultant wants to work WITH you and not FOR you, there is a vast difference between these two approaches, however YOU need also need to assess your readiness to work successfully WITH that consultant.

Available Solutions

Spectrain design and deliver training and organisation development solutions for a range of organisations. Read about our professional standards and take a look at how our customers businesses have benefited from working with us here:

We will always encourage development from within because we want you to be independent and you might find our ILM Accredited Change Leadership Training Programme and our Developing Internal Consultants Training Course really beneficial


4 responses to “Top Tips for Choosing and Using External Consultants

  1. Hi Joy, An excellent post. As a consultant I’d be very happy dealing with a client that adopted your guidelines. They make for a clear and successful relationship between both parties.


  2. Thanks for your comment Adrian it does concern me when organisations see the consultant as a permanent fixture and when the consultant does not take the responsibility to transfer knowledge.

  3. Yes you are right Adrian this is very very informative blog…Thanks for sharing such a nice post.

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