OD consultant-client relationship Essay Sample
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OD consultant-client relationship Essay Sample
The consultant in the OD consultant-client relationship is expected to provide the client with professional expert advice in a specific field by assisting the organisation in an objective manner to identify, analyse and, upon request, assist in implementing solutions to specific problems. There have been several schools of thought on the various models of consultation that exists for clients. Schein (1990) identified three broad categories as the purchase of expertise, process consultation and doctor–patient. The purchase of expertise model suggests that clients are looking for the consultant to provide independent perspective to bear on specific challenges hand. Here, there is no expectation to focus on the client relationship per se but to provide expertise in a detached manner. The doctor-patient model says the consultant focuses on using a diagnostic approach to examine the client organisations problems. Using distinct experience, knowledge and diagnostic abilities, the strategic organisational issues are identified by the consultant, who focuses on building strong relationships and developing trust between client and consultant.
In the process consultation model, Schein suggests that the consultant is a facilitator and the client actually provides much of the relevant expertise with a clear distinction of roles and tasks. Consultants may at times have to cross between models when working along with organisations in addressing specific issues, however they should be always mindful that assuming a facilitative role may better assist the organisation in getting to a point where they are able to develop their own processes. Getting to that point is not a smooth transition, however and there are several issues that will arise within the consultant-client relationship. The consultant-client relationship will usually begin with the client organisation contacting a consultant to explain to them a challenge they are having and to solicit the consultants’ assistance in addressing the problem.
A psychological contract is formed among both parties as they discuss and identify a logical starting point for an OD intervention. Selecting an appropriate unit/group to work with initially and ensuring the relevant parties are included is important to the success of the intervention. Excluding persons from this process, who may need to be involved, may prove to be a mistake as this start point can be viewed as the pilot for future intervention strategies. The consultant may decide to schedule meetings with this group and find that due to work commitments, some members are unable to commit to the time
required for the process. Some members of the client organisation may even raise concerns on the confidentiality of interviews and may choose to withhold certain information from the consultant. This may result in the consultant having to spend extra time collecting data. This may not have been factored into his initial contracting agreement, hence the consultant should ensure that compensatory matters are discussed early with the client. If a re-examination of the contract will be necessary, this should be established from the onset, as often consultants may have to adjust based on the amount of work put into bringing the organisation to a more effective state.
The issue of trust is one that will present itself very early in the interactions between consultant and client. In some organisations’ the consultant may be seen as an avenue for petty complaints and criticisms on management to be harboured, or on the other hand, a tool to manipulate staff into accepting top-down goals and objectives. The consultant should seek to verify if the client has a hidden agenda such as to expose or otherwise punish underperforming employees. If the consultant realises they are being used by the client to prove a point to subordinates, this will cause a lack of trust and may lead to resistance. The consultant may take a position that says that s/he is only the carrier of the message and should be viewed as the ‘good guy’. The consultant may want to reassess the purpose of team building and consider specific activities that will be appropriate for addressing specific matters, all the while ensuring confidentiality is maintained.
As mentioned earlier when looking at the models, some consultants take on an expert role. Members of the organisation may not be too familiar with OD methods and the interventions introduced by the consultant may lead members to view the consultant as an expert in all areas of organisational policy and business strategy. Whereas it will benefit the consultant to be competent in a range of areas, they must be careful that taking on an expert role in all matters of the client organisation will contradict the effectiveness of the implementation of the OD intervention. In some cases the consultant tries so hard to please the client in order to maintain that relationship for financial and other reasons that they become bogged down with giving advice preparing reports and all the while losing out on effectively managing the process.
Consultants are to be experts on the process and help client system to develop its own resources. Being an expert in all areas of the organisation will create a dependence that does not facilitate or lend to internal skill development. The consultant is to give facilitative advice and not confuse being an expert on how to help the client system learn with being an expert on actual management problems the organisation is trying to solve. Having extensive knowledge of management and the organisation may make a more effective consultant, however there should be a clear difference between the facilitator-educator role and the advice giver role. Consultants and their clients want to have a success story at the end of the intervention used. However, some consultants may be tempted to take a copy and paste approach to applying an intervention technique. This technique was used previously in another organisation and produced good results so if it worked for that client, it should work for this one. Diagnosing and applying an appropriate intervention is to be done for each client, even within the same organisation as the intervention required may be different.
Roger Harrison also considers the depth of the intervention an issue which arises in the consultant- client relationship. He looks at this in terms of the accessibility and individuality: accessibility relating to how public or private data is and how easily intervention skills can be learned, and individuality referring to the closeness to persons perceptions of self and degree to which effects of intervention are in the individual as opposed to the organisation. In such cases the consultant is encouraged to intervene in a level no deeper than is required to produce enduring solutions to the problems and to allow the available resources and energy of the client system that can be committed to bring about change determine how deep the intervention should be.
Some client systems have very strong cultures and one mistake that can be made by change agents is to become seduced in the culture of the organisation. The consultant should not try to fit in so well with the client organisation that it becomes difficult to identify them in their role as change agent. Becoming absorbed into organisations’ culture may prove difficult for client and result in them eventually losing confidence in the process being implemented. The consultant should keep a clear ‘political distance’ as being too much a part of the organisation may result in them being part of the problem. The consultant should not be too aloof as to the
issues; however it is important that they practice what they preach and send clear messages to client in words and actions. This is critically important when the consultant working with the client is a team. That team must be mindful that they set an example to the client as to how an effective unit is to operate. If they can display to the client the interpersonal relationships they are trying to create in their organisation and focus on continuous growth and renewal process their credibility will be increased. Openly displaying conflict can severely hamper the effectiveness of the intervention.
The issues faced in the consultant-client relationship can be prevented and in cases where they become an issue, solved. Both parties need to ensure transparency from the onset of the relationship. Being open and honest about motives and intentions can assist in providing direction. Mutual respect, trust, confidence and a willingness to accept a difference of opinion is important. The consultant should be able to, in a professional manner, share their point of view with the client. This will be easier if they are not seen as being too involved in the organisation’s culture and if they maintain a high level of professionalism throughout. A transfer of knowledge in the form of coaching, mentoring and training will help members in the client system solve their own problems, as opposed to depending on the change agent. The consultant client relationship should also be one that is sociable and filled with tension. This allows for more free flow of information and will assist in the diagnostic phase. The relationship between consultant and client is one that has several issues but should the consultant bear in mind their role as facilitator and helping the client system to come to a place of renewal and self-sufficiency, many of these issues can be avoided.