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Consulting: Will your clients take your advice?

What do you think?


Here's a situation at a company

A company that was having difficulty moving product forward from research and development (R&D) into the marketplace.

Spending money on R&D is very expensive. The sale of existing products can pay for the R&D, but patent protection, competitors, and other factors will become a problem unless the company starts to generate sales from new products.

The problem was that decisions would be made, but would rapidly unravel.

Development teams were asked to present their plans to upper management. When plans were approved, a new major steps and efforts would begin.

Then, a few days or weeks later, it would be overturned, often by one department head in upper management. Teams would be asked to prepare a new proposal. Back to square one!

Here come the consultants!

Yes. Eventually, upper management decided that the lack of progress had to be addressed. They brought in a business management consultant team.

What did the consultants do?

The consultants were impressive.

  • They interviewed teams and individuals from the lowest to the highest levels, up and down the organization.

  • Everyone in the company worked with the consultants to look at problem areas and develop solutions.

  • They made everyone feel that their concerns and solutions were taken into account.

  • Every process in the organization relevant to R&D was mapped and ways were sought to remove any redundant steps.

The consultant team's conclusions:

  • The company's R&D teams were highly productive, creative, efficient and produced what was asked of them on or ahead of schedule.

  • The company's decision-making process was excellent.

  • Upper management did not stick to their decisions; in some cases individual decisions after the fact disrupted the approved plans.

When this was presented to upper management, guess what?

  • They weren't too sure that they had anything to do with the problem.

  • They offered to accept the suggestions made by the consultants.


  • Within three weeks, it was business as usual, except that a few minor suggestions for improving the teams was given great emphasis.

The bottom line

The company did not really take the advice of the consultants.

Instead they brought in new consultants to improve the functioning of the teams!

How the company's response work out?

The problems persisted, employee morale declined, and eventually a stellar company was acquired.

What does this mean for consultants?

Experienced consultants, as experts in their areas, can generally diagnose problems,

and recommend reasonable solutions, but it does not mean the client will accept the findings or the solutions.

Clients may wisely want other opinions before deciding on a course of action. In many cases, as an expert you might see that their planned course of action will not work. They may pursue it anyway.

In assembling expert panels, I have seen that some people want the panel members have have opinions are similar to theirs. Sometimes clients may do this because they want their view confirmed rather than finding the truth or the best course of action.

Even when they disagree with you, and you have given them solid reasons, the clients may come back to you anyway. This is all the more so if you warned them of an unfavorable outcome and how it might unfold, and you were correct.

Keep a balance of accepting that your assessment or solution may not be correct versus sticking to your guns because you have seen this scenario many times over and your client may be mistaken.

Clients don't always take your advice, and that is fine!

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