From contact to contract-that’s a key time to diagnose

All of us who have studied and taught organizational diagnosis know a plethora of diagnostic models. But diagnosis should begin before the work itself actually starts and this post is geared to pointing out what we should be looking at in the very initial stage between contact and contract.

Paying close attention to what we learn about the client in this period of time often provides the context and direction for the diagnosis and intervention.

Here are five things worth noting.

1-Misplaced/wrong expectations about the nature of OD

  • Clients may overly define the scope of work and expected measurable “deliverables”, forcing you commit to something you know nothing about.

2-The ideological/religious nature of the corporate creed

  • Clients who lecture you about the corporate culture and ask you ensure that your work will reinforce the Holy Grail.

3-Lack of respect

  • Clients who cancel initial meetings again and again, often at the last minute, yet demand total flexibility on your part.

4-Do they want to change, or do they want to “use and throw away”

  • Clients who milk you for long and detailed proposals, again and again , with a very aggressive time schedule and then make you hurry up and wait for an answer.

5-Accessibility to key information; stakeholder analysis

  • Clients who block access to senior management before HR puts a stamp of approval on your forehead.

I do a lot of supervision with consultants who seek guidance when projects go astray. One of my first areas of inquires is “tell me about the very beginning”. Alas, often it’s all there from day one. And acting right from day one saves a lot of heartache.

Recently, I was asked to do merger and integration work. In our initial meeting, the CEO asked me what “model” I use, and if I could finish it all “in 6 weeks”. That was all I needed to start work.

So remember, work starts with the first call, and if you act appropriately at this stage, the chance of success increases.

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