Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–VII. The Consultative Process: Stages 1 and 2
The most effective organizational consultants are those who can assume many roles and serve many functions—they can move into any one of the four models we identified in an earlier essay. Such flexibility allows the consultant to be responsive to the unique needs and styles of clients as well as to the particular characteristics of the setting. Nevertheless, there do seem to be ten common stages that a consultant ought to take into consideration when planning any consultation. One or more of the ten stages that are being proposed can be dismissed in any one particular consultation. However, if a consultant consistently ignores one or more of these stages, she is much more likely to confront problems that could be predicted and consequently avoided.
The ten stages relate to one another in a sequential manner. In most instances, a consultant cannot move from one stage until she has negotiated the previous ones, although she may begin at different points in the process and often will repeat and cycle back through one or more stages during any single consultation.
The ten stages that encompass and can be used to guide most consultations are:
1. Entry: the client contacts the consultant;
2. Initial Contract: the consultant and client reach a preliminary agreement concerning their working relationship;
3. Information Collection: the consultant (often in collaboration with the client) collects additional information about the client system;
4. Information Analysis: the consultant (often in collaboration with the client) assembles and synthesizes the information to arrive at a valid and useful description and understanding of the client system;
5. Information Feedback: the consultant conveys the description of the client system to the client in a manner that promotes understanding and movement from reflection to action;
6. Recontract: the consultant and client reach a new agreement about their relationship based on the information that already has been collected and analyzed and their experience in working together;
7. Plan for Intervention: the consultant and client determine the nature and design of activities that will be responsive to the problems and needs identified by the client and information gathered during previous stages;
8. Intervention: the consultant provides specific services for the client that are responsive to the problems and needs of the client system;
9. Evaluation of the Intervention: the client and consultant determine the extent to which the intervention successfully responded to the client’s problems and needs, and was compatible with the contractual relationship between the client and consultant;
10. Recontract/Exit: the client and consultant determine whether further work is needed and to what stage the consultant should return if further work seems appropriate; if no further work is needed, the client and consultant plan for and initiate the consultant exit in a manner that ensures continuity of action taken as a result of the consultation.