Organizational Consultation: An Appreciative Approach–VII. The Consultative Process: Stages 1 and 2
Inexperienced consultants often attempt to demonstrate competence (and reduce their own fears of inadequacy) by rushing prematurely into an intervention. A confident and competent consultant will move carefully and caringly into a consultancy. Ultimately, both intention and competence are established firmly through the formulation of a consulting contract—the activity and stage of consultation to which we now turn our attention.
Stage Two: Initial Contract
An explicit agreement about the needs and expectations of both client and consultant is needed at an early point in a consultation. Furthermore, this explicit statement should be linked to specific obligations on the part of both client and consultant. For these reasons, a contract is drawn up between the client and the consultant.
The contract need not be highly formal, if both parties are clear about its content and each has heard the other party articulate the agreements made in the contract. A written contract is usually appropriate, given the complex and often elusive nature of the needs, expectations and obligations that are identified. In some institutional settings (e.g. higher education), oral agreements may be more common than written ones. The tradition of the particular institution being served must be respected—though not at the expense of clarity regarding the needs and expectations of both parties.
An agreement (written or oral) must be precise and clear to both parties. In many instances, this process will be the critical aspect of a consultation. It can contribute significantly to the client’s understanding of solutions to his problem and to a fuller understanding by the client of his own resources and the resources of people with whom he works.