Maestro-level leaders, even those with a long history of planning and accurate market forecasting, are at a new horizon of organizational and personal development when they launch into their last rounds of building future value while focused on succession and legacy. Process Consulting has much to offer in walking alongside the board and C-Suite at such a critical time. 

 A blog Philip C. Bergey and I wrote a few years ago speaks to this…..


4383964-a-simple-mind-map-with-questions-what-when-where-why-how-who--to-solve-a-problem-sketched-with-white-resized-600We might turn you down. 

We are not persnickety. We do not like to tell someone no. Still, there are times "No" is a proper response.

We aren't going to take your money just because you say you need a consultant. 

Because they focus on Client success, Process Consultants work hard to design context and process-based services focused on the Client's clearly stated goals and deliverables. To do this successfully, developing a Consulting Agreement with a client must address fundamental questions:

  • Why
    • why are you looking for consulting services?
  • Who
    • who are we contracting with?
    • who will be making the decisions?
    • who supervises and is responsible for judgment calls?
    • who is tasked to follow through?
    • who needs to be consulted along the way?
  • What
    • what is explicitly being requested and will be measured?
    • what are your criteria for success?
  •  When
    • when will the process take place?
    • when are the official or artificial deadlines?
  •  Where
    • where will these services and processes primarily take place?
  • How
    • how will we agree to proceed between now and any deadlines to make these processes happen?

Many Clients do not have definitive answers to these fundamental questions. Perhaps this is why they are looking for consultative help. 

Working with the Client to answer these questions is often the first way we help them find organizational clarity and direction as they move into adaptive change. By coming to a place of clarity, we can jointly design a Client Consulting Agreement with an above reasonable chance for success. When there is resistance on the Client's part to find clarity at this basic level, we say "No." At that point, outside intervention is the only service we can bring, and then only if the organizational system is ready for it. 

Why would an organization or its leaders struggle to clarify these basic questions? Usually, it is because the system is too broken to arrive at answers. For example:

  • Why
    • A person or group rightly flagged some needed services, but higher-ups find outside help threatening.
    • The organization is too balkanized to agree on a definition of the problem.
    • Previous bad experiences in addressing the issue leave the Client unable to be honest about the real problem.
    • The organizational system only supports simple solutions and does not have the focus to address complex and multi-faceted ones.
  • Who
    • Role definitions are not in place or not honored if they are in place.
    • The I don't have time so we can't do it syndrome is part of the organizational culture.
  • What
    • Key influencers view their personal criteria for success as a win-lose scenario or even a morality play. They are either unwilling to submit their ideas for group critique or reluctant to consider the contributions of others.
    • The organization has a history of abandoning the process. This breeds skepticism that success can happen, thus undermining any new process at its inception.
    • Passive aggression is the modus operandi.
  • When
    • Unwillingness to commit to a time frame or to be accountable.
    • Accountability is punished rather than rewarded.
  • Where
    • Failure to notice the domain(s) affected by the work.
    • Ignorance of contextual or geographic realities.
  • How
    • Leaders are forced to work beyond their competencies and without resources to acquire help.
    • Leadership change in the middle of a process often results in a new leader who refuses to participate in something they did not originate.
    • The organization and its leaders are not willing to adapt to unforeseen contingencies.

 When we walk the Client through this discovery process, we can write a solid Client Consulting Agreement, or these deficiencies--if they exist--quickly come to light. If we find the Client is unwilling to address them, we say "No." 

If we find they are clear but do not have ready answers, we often suggest completing a Process Design with crucial players as our first step. That way, they are not on the hook for services that are likely to fail due to lack of clarity, and we begin helping them gain momentum in a good group process so that they can tackle the presenting issues that led them to call us.

We offer this post in the spirit of helpfulness rather than salesmanship. Many organizational leaders would be helped if they worked with this simple declension they learned in high school English class to determine what they are tackling and how they will proceed. Clients are helped not just because they are improving organizational clarity but because they can more easily determine whether they have the skills in-house or would do better to acquire consultative help. Armed with that clarity, no one's time gets wasted by saying "Yes" to what should have received a firm "No."

-Philip C. Bergey and mark l. vincent



Mark L. Vincent
Post by Mark L. Vincent
October 20, 2022
I walk alongside leaders, listening to understand their challenges, and helping them lead healthy organizations that flourish.