Contracting: Starting a Consultancy Relationship Makes or Breaks Future Success

Published by on 28. Mar 2011 in category Concepts
Contracting: Starting a Consultancy Relationship Makes or Breaks Future Success

More and more, time is becoming a tight commodity; time is money and a waste of time is expensive. Many (potential) customers demand to see immediate results; before the actual consultancy work has commenced.

At this point, a conflict might arise for the consultant: on the one hand, an in-depth clarification and examination of the assignment from all angles is decisive for the success but on the other hand, the customer often dislikes this method as he feels his time is being wasted for these “insignificant subjects”.

However, why is an initial assignment clarification at the beginning of a mutual cooperation mission-critical?

There are several arguments that speak for an assignment clarification – also called Contracting. Particularly (however not solely) in larger organizations, a consultant is always involved in a web of orders; all those involved and each function call upon other requirements. Often, those involved are not the actual principals, and instead others (e.g. superiors) demand the collaboration with a consultant. Therefore, it must be critically examined which (not directly involved) persons have an interest in the course and success of the consulting process!

Besides the “concealed principals”, one can differentiate between open and unexpressed orders. Open orders are quickly recognizable and often relatively uncomplicated to handle, however they occasionally only constitute a pretext. The principal then promises himself other, unexpressed results from the consulting work (e.g. the exposure (in the principal’s opinion) of an unqualified and incompetent co-worker).

The consultant must always be aware of these direct and concealed principals as well as of the open and unexpressed orders. Otherwise, the risk arises of the consultant becoming a marionette of those involved, and that the actual goal remains unachievable.

How is contracting carried out?

To achieve clarification concerning the web of orders it is helpful to answer the well-known “W-Questions”: Who wants What from Whom in Which complexity and with Which goal? The following steps should be taken:

  1. Motive: What brings you here?
  2. Concern: What would you like to achieve?
  3. Order: What would you like me to do?
  4. Contracting: What do I offer?
  5. Interim Result: Where do we stand, now?

To avoid misunderstandings, no step should be omitted. In addition, the items should not only be elaborated for the principal himself, but for potential concealed principals as well.

This background structure enables the development of a clear and unequivocal contracting between the consultant and those involved. The actual work can now begin – the foundation of a successful collaboration has been created. In addition, if uncertainties or insecurities arise, the possibility exists of drawing upon this contract during the consulting work.

In the past, SEDLÁK & PARTNER has had good experiences with this approach and were capable of successfully mastering difficult consulting orders (e.g. within the context of involuntary acceptance)

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Sources of Literature:
Arist von Schlippe; Jochen Schweitzer (2009): Systemische Interventionen Arist von Schlippe;
Jochen Schweitzer (2007): Lehrbuch der systemischen Therapie und Beratung
Zeit wird mehr und mehr zu einem knappen Gut, Zeit ist Geld, und Zeitverschwendung ist teuer. Viele (potenzielle) Kunden wollen daher am liebsten sofort Ergebnisse sehen – schon bevor die eigentliche Beratungsarbeit angefangen hat.

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