Please the client, and ruin the job: What can be done?

Often clients mis-diagnosis their own problems  and ask OD consultants to do the wrong thing.

The best examples of this are “work with mid management on listening skills”, or a request to coach someone who is totally incompetent, or “work on a process” when cooperation is the real problem.

Often  HR joins the choir of  by pushing for wow wow interventions, after which everyone feels good, regardless of what does (and does not) get done.

How can this fiasco be avoided? How can OD avoid pleasing the client in order to get the job done? Here are a few things that appear to work.

1) Avoid entering an organization via a Training Function. This is THE entry point where “apparent effectiveness” is so sought after because of the low positioning of Training.

2) In your initial meeting with the client, do not present a list of products or services that you offer. Listen to the clients needs. If the client wants to see you sing and dance before he defines his needs, he is not interested in OD. Walk away.

3) Try and have the first meeting in your office or in the lobby of a hotel, not in the clients’ premises. Pay for the coffee. Act the role.

4) Watch your words and your clients’ words carefully. You are not a vendor. You are not a service provider. You are an OD consultant.

5) In your very first meeting, manage expectations . Make it very clear that you don’t please or titillate clients. Explain that OD is like root canal work; midway there is not a lot of joy and glee. If your client says “this is a commercial relationship: we define the scope of work and you do it”, walk away. No OD will be done.

6) Avoid over planning. Over planning leads to expectations that the OD project road map is clear; no OD project road clear is clear. If you make the plan too clear, HR will lunge in “measure progress”, against mile stones which never have should been put out there.

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5 thoughts on “Please the client, and ruin the job: What can be done?

  1. With one exception I agree with your points above, Allon. I don’t agree that you should NEVER enter via the training route. Much of my work over the years has occurred as a result of gaining entry through the training portal. But, to be honest, I don’t “do” OD; instead, OD is done as part of doing something else (usually improving performance). So maybe you are correct after all.

  2. I have entered some organizations via training, but they were few and far between and extremely professional.
    This was decades ago.
    Today it just doesn’t fly. The average training manager’s next role is in supply chain or logistics.

  3. Allon,

    This is one of the best postings on OD consulting that I have seen in a long while; one of your very best. The scalding honesty of the wisdom reflected is quite refreshing.

    One thing I will add: Don’t say you can when you know you can’t or are not sure you can. Too many consultants look for the money and say yes. Then they run to make a posting to a Linked-In group: “Hey, I just landed a contract for XYZ. Anyone have experience they are willing to share about how to do XYZ.” Those consultants give consulting a bad name – and make the client gun-shy for any future consulting approaches. That is one reason potential clients look for a “song and dance.”


    Drive On!

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