It may be that despite being cautioned about using management consultants, you still feel that they could benefit your company; and you know what? That's perfectly okay. As long as you do it with your eyes wide open. But, if that's what you've decided to do, then you'll need to know how to do it.
Like many other services, it's better to get a referral from someone you trust than to make a choice through a directory or by surfing the internet. Professional associations can be a reasonable place to start, but all that membership in such an association will really tell you is if they've been disciplined for unprofessional behavior. Once they're in, their competence as consultants will seldom be called into question.
But, suppose you're at the stage where you're interviewing someone with a view to awarding a contract to a consultant. Now what?
You will need to decide what questions you will ask. Although interviews alone, whether for a job such as this or in an actual hiring situation, are no more reliable than asking a novice to throw a dart at a dartboard. That's because decisions on who to employ or contract are usually made within 30 seconds of the candidate walking through the door. In other words, that person doesn't have to say anything, which rather obviates the interview process.
There's one question that is seldom asked, and that is "How will you measure the impact of what you do?" This will scare a lot of those people who pitch for your business, because when it comes to dealing with non-financial issues, most people don't know how to measure what their results. So instead of telling you what they'll do, they'll tell you that there are so many things to consider and such a long time before the results will be felt, that it can't be done.
They couldn't be more wrong. The problem isn't that their efforts can't be measured; rather it is that they don't know how to do it. It's true that considerable skill in constructing questionnaires or gathering data in another manner is required; but that doesn't mean it's not possible; and it's equally true that some advanced statistical techniques will also be appropriate. For that sort of thing, a research-based Masters or quantitative PhD will provide the knowledge for how to do this.
So, from now on you can hold everyone who approaches you for consulting work accountable for their work.
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