Choosing an OD consultant-6 guidelines

I know, I know. If I were not 72 going on 73, I would recommend that someone who is shopping for an OD consultant ensure that the potential candidates are equally female, male and bi-sexual. And perhaps a candidate who thinks that Zelensky is the new Churchill. However…

Since I come from a different generation, I want to suggest some questions and issues you clarify when choosing a potential OD consultant.

  • Does your candidate have domain experience relevant to your firm? If you run an insurance agency, an OD consultant with 30 years’ experience in petroleum will not be effective. Domain experience is critical in the present level of complexity and competitiveness. Don’t anyone tell you otherwise.
  • Do you like the candidate? As India-based guru Joseph George points out in his comments to this post, this “liking” can lead to a slippery slope given the parallel requirement of choosing a no nonsense consultant, which is also discussed below. Furthermore, I say this even though I personally am an acquired taste. However, if there is not enough initial personal chemistry, my advice is to think twice. So much of the OD dialogue is based on trust that working against your own intuition is not worth the risk. Let me give an example. If I were to meet a consultant who was late for a meeting and did not apologize, corrected my use of traditional gender pronouns, and used sloppy grammar, I would cut the conversation short. 
  • If your candidate wants to conduct remote interviews or Zoom sessions even some of the time, forget it. Face to face interactions with an OD consultant are as important as are face to face interactions with a dentist.  
  • Is your candidate willing to clearly define goals and eventual results in the initial meetings beyond the basic generic nature of the OD process (which must be made clear up front)? If so, don’t hire because it cannot be done. Project goals emerge slowly over time and shift /sway.
  • Does the candidate appear to be a pleaser? If so, be careful-because OD people must challenge & authority. They should not be compliant or pleasers. 
  • If your staff is ethnically or internationally diverse, if your candidate culturally fluent? Or is he or she   a captive of the culture into which he was born? Give this quiz when in doubt. 



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7 thoughts on “Choosing an OD consultant-6 guidelines

  1. Pingback: 5 indicators that you have a western bias as a consultant (revised) | Allon Shevat-אלון שבט

  2. Liking and pleasing are slippery criteria, not only for their overlap, but also for being the contrarian in complex contexts. Emotional agility on either side matters.

    A qualifier on Goal clarity and timing in goal formation ?

    On the consultant’s part despite early circumspection if the consultant has no wherewithal to calibrate the client on OD values, OD’s goals as a process is stillborn. On the client’s part, given necessary due diligence, irrespective of the consultant’s domain exposure, it is necessary to calibrate the consultant’s adaptation in diverse contexts.
    It’s the power of the client-consultant relationship invested in, that makes for the potential in emergent goal setting, collaboration and renewal of system capabilities for the client organization.

  3. We’ve had this discussion before, Allon. I agree with everything except domain experience. In my experience, NOT knowing a lot about a particular industry can be a strength because it allows for a different perspective & for questioning things that someone who grew up in that industry might not think to ask. To my mind, being am outsider without preconceptions can be a major strength in an OD assessment & intervention.

  4. I agree with all except domain experience. What got them here won’t get them where they need to go. In many cases, my domain experience is leadership and cross cultural communication, and often it’s leadership that is lacking (skills, experience, behavior, understanding of roles and methods they have at their disposal).

    In other cases you’ll find an outside perspective, or even letting them explain how their business works to an outsider, surfaces important insights, and looking at things from other points of view is one of the strengths of bringing in an outside consultant who is wiling to ask questions and challenge assumptions, rather than being part of the “that’s always how we’ve done things here” type of problem.

    Great write up as always!

    • Thor-when I start working with a software developer, I can understand their issues: speed; features; maintainability. Certain types of people. Issues that can be solved and those that cannot. Same for energy companies, old school and new. Same for medical equipment and chip companies.
      If I were to be thrown into a bank, insurance company or heaven forbid a call centre, I would not bring any value for a long time. And I would learn the hard way.

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