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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4 thoughts on “From contact to contract-that’s a key time to diagnose

  1. Right on Allon! This is an important post for OD (sic) consultants.
    I would add that the terms of the contract shd not be written in stone but revisited because the problem you are hired for is often one that the managers pretend to think is the problem because they really don’t want to hear the truth. So again, managing your relationship with the client and your ability to diagnose the problem as you see fit and creating the space for management to hear the results is part of the process and this awareness starts at the beginning as you point out.

  2. An important post: An important part for me includes the question: “Who really matters in this contract”. The web of decision-makers and their relative importance they bear on the success of the work is key.

    • Who really matters is SO important. And if they are not in the first meetings, you are not going anywhere, because the pebble is not in their shoe if they do not commission you.

  3. Indeed, a pre-diagnostic stage is a formal phase I’ve known in the work of Dr. S Pandey in India. It provides the autonomous impetus that an OD consultant is happy to make as basis for the deeper diagnosis to follow. In medical metaphor, it is the pulse reading, and yet cannot provide clearest distinctions between arrhythmia and athletic heart-beats. This is also the phase in which ideographic (internal world descriptions) paradigms of the subjective client system meet relatively clueless with the nomothetic ( labels of general non-contextual kind) generalities. Fine calibration phase for both parties to the relationship.

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