What is Consulting?
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I was recently going through some slides from presentation on consulting and came across three definitions for consulting all of which take a different perspective. Which of these three sound the most accurate to you?
“… an uncertain and evolving process conducted by a foreign intruder who muddles through by performing various problem-solving activities, while trying to maintain high professional standards and still attempting to meet the needs of the client.”
“… giving a message in a way the client can hear it and ensuring the client has the capacity and the will to translate their insights into effective action.”
“… an advisory service contracted for and provided to organizations by specially trained and qualified persons who assist, in an objective and independent manner, the client organization to identify problems, recommend solutions to these problems, and help, when requested, in the implementation of solutions.”
Why People Hire Consultants
Another way to look at the topic of consulting is to examine a the motivations behind enlisting their help. Here are some typical reasons.
- The company needs an objective and informed opinion only an outsider can offer. Possibly also free of influences from internal politics.
- Deficient in expertise to achieve the desired goals or objectives.
- Insufficient time to complete the task with existing internal resources.
- Reduce the risk involved in dealing with issues that could be highly stressful or have adverse outcomes. In simpler terms, to “cover their butts”.
I would say that all of the above are true. I've often compared consulting with hired services that you would obtain at home. Sometimes consultants are brought in for expertise that a firm doesn't already have. As a homeowner, perhaps you don't have the expertise to fix the leaky faucet, so you hire a plumbing consultant to perform analysis to determine the problem and recommend a solution(s) for implementation. Companies also bring in consultants to perform tasks that the company isn't interested in doing themselves. Homeowners hire landscapers and house cleaners much like a company hires consultant programmers to augment their staff for work that they don't want to hire full-time employees to perform.