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How to select and use management consultants.

The right management consultant can offer valuable assistance to any enterprise, but selecting and working with management consultants can seem an awesome and confusing prospect. Following is an excerpt from How to Select and Use Management Consultants, a booklet published by ACME, Inc., the Association of Management Consulting Firms, addresses, step by step, the approach to follow in choosing the right management consultant.

What Is Management Consulting.

Management consulting is a service performed for a fee by independent, objective professionals to help managers define and achieve their organizations' goals. By analyzing problems or opportunities associated with key management functions, management consultants can recommend practical solutions and help to implement them. In simplest terms, management consulting is the business of managing change and management consultants are skilled, knowledgeable agents of change. The ultimate purpose of every consulting engagement is to make something happen in the client organization that will improve its performance. Change-for the better-is the ultimate measure of success.

Defining Your Problem

It's easy to recognize when a problem exists, but it's more difficult to determine exactly what the problem is and what's causing it. The following three steps will help you to organize the process of defining the problem.

1. Collect and analyze the facts, making sure to separate important and relevant information from superficial and irrelevant data.

2. Identify what has created and is sustaining the problem. The solution often becomes apparent when the causes are known.

3. Determine the conditions for solving the problem and achieving the desired results. After defining the problem to the best of your ability, you need to decide whether your staff can handle the problem effectively and economically or if you need the experience of a management consultant.

Management consulting services are advantageous when you need one or more of the following:

* intensive experience or ability

on a temporary basis

* specialized knowledge and

technical skills for special functions

or technical areas

* a catalyst to complete an important

job on time

* an impartial viewpoint for a

fresh, unbiased approach to a

difficult problem

* the confidential handling of a

sensitive situation.

Basic Values offered By Management Consultants:::

Full-time attention. Management consultants can devote full-time attention to the problem or situation, unhindered by day-to-day distractions and operating responsibilities.

Expertise. Management consultants bring to the project specialized skills and information resources which are often not available within the client organization.

Objectivity. Management consultants can provide an independent, fresh viewpoint that is free from personal interest, internal loyalties, or preconceptions.

Broad Experience. Management consultants serve many clients and deal frequently with situations that may confront an individual client only once. From this broad experience, the Management consultant has learned what problems to anticipate, what action to take if unexpected obstacles arise, what reactions to expect from the people involved and what ingredients are necessary for a successful project. This experience is backed by the consultant's expertise, specialized skills and information resources. Analytical skill. Management consultants know how to separate the symptoms from the problem so as to identify the real problem and its underlying causes.

Innovation. Management consultants frequently introduce new concepts and techniques into the client's organization. They tailor the solution to the client's specific needs and act as catalysts to help elicit, articulate and implement many worthy ideas often found within the organization.

In most cases, the decision to use management consulting services is ultimately based on economics. Will employing a management consultant save money? Will the investment in consulting services help the organization become more effective? A "yes" answer to these questions indicates that you should consider the use of a professional consultant.

When Not To Use A Consultant

Occasionally, there are situations where hiring a management consultant may not be the best course of action. These situations usually occur when the project or problem is not sufficiently defined or when management is not totally committed to the engagement. To avoid the disappointment that can result under these circumstances, member these four rules:

* Do not hire a management consultant

until you have tried to

develop a clear understanding

of the project objectives.

* Do not hire a management consultant

unless you have full

commitment from management

to support the project financially

and organizationally.

* Do not hire a management consultant

to run your business indefinitely.

A management consultant

has a professional responsibility

to see that the recommendations

are implemented,

but it is your responsibility

to decide how to implement

them and with whom.

* Do not hire a management consultant

unless you are prepared

to provide ongoing support

during and after the project.

Many management consulting assignments require client personnel to be retrained and to supervise the program after implementation to ensure its success.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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