Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–VII. The Consultative Process: Stages 1 and 2
Stage One: Entry
The initial contact between a consultant and client often determines the degree of success in a consultation. Furthermore, entry often lasts for a considerable period of time even though the consultation has seemed to move beyond this initial stage. When a consultant is brought in to conduct a short workshop or make a speech, this brief presentation sometimes serves as her “entry” into the institution and is not meant by itself to be a significant intervention into the client system. The essential tasks in any entry process are initial identification of the client and the audience, and, based on this identification, establishment of a trustful working relationship between the client and consultant.
Initial Contact with the Client Institution
Usually the first contact between an institutional leader and a consultant occurs via email, letter, telephone or personal encounter (at a conference, workshop, etc.) Typically, the initial contact includes a statement by the contact person about the general nature of the convening problem or need that precipitated the request for a consultant, as well as some general statement about the extent of the consultation itself. The consultant should share information about her fees, availability and, if requested, relevant background, knowledge or skills in the problem or need area defined by the contact person.
Identification of the Client and Audience
The initial contact person may or may not be the ultimate client of the consultation. Sometimes the individual is the real client, i.e., the entire problem that he or she confronts is within the client’s capacity to resolve with consultant assistance. Sometimes, however, the client should be seen not as the ultimate operational client but as the entry client; that is, an individual through whom access to the operational client may be possible. Given this distinction, one of the tasks in the initial contact between a consultant and entry client is the identification of the “real” or ongoing client. In those instances where the ongoing client is not the entry client, he may be the bill payer or the person who works with the consultant on a daily basis.