There are no “pat” answers to hard questions that OD consultants are asked, especially at the initial stages of contact with a client. But I have tried to share the generic answers I have used over the years.
1 Client: Do you work for a success fee?
Consultant: If you promise to fully implement all suggestions and recommendations that I make, then yes.
2 Client: Why is your hourly fee so high?
Consultant: Because when you hire a highly skilled consultant, you will need to pay for far fewer hours.
3 Client: How can success be measured?
Answer: It cannot. If after a few months, you feel that change is starting to happen, it’s going well. If not, fire me. Btw, initially things may get worse; that’s a good sign.
4 Client: Can you kindly send me a proposal with the goals of the process, definition of the stages, and expected take-aways.
Answer: Not really. It’s guess work. I can write something for you, but it’s just a stab in the dark. The goals could remain constant, but on the other hand, they could be in a constant state of flux.
5 Client: Why is your report so short?
Answer: Because I invested a lot time in writing it.
6 Client: What is your personal experience in writing software/civil engineering/machining/refinery/fast food?
Answer: I have spent my whole professional career learning.
7 Client: Have you ever failed in a project?
Answer: Of course I have. More than once. And whoever you hire, I suggest that you be very wary of someone who has never failed.
8 Client: Can we get a reduced rate on volume?
Answer: The more I work for you, the more dependent I become on one source of revenue. I am not interested in having my revenue stream depend on one major client, and you certainly do not want a consultant who is dependent on you.
9 Client: Can you start your work with middle management?
Answer: Absolutely not. There are problems which manifest themselves at middle management but these problems are very often if not always symptoms of deeper problems.
10 Client: What is your approach to unions?
Answer: I respect unions; they take care of employees just like management takes care of themselves and stakeholders. They mistrust OD consultants and this is natural, because often the type of dialogue OD promotes is counter to their interests. However, I always tell union guys that I will never ever step into their sphere-and I keep my word.