Feb 18, 2008

Consulting Skills



When someone asks me what are consulting skills, as opposed to technical/functional/industry expertise, I variously try to explain it using Peter Block's Flawless Consulting skills model.

Steve Shu succeeds in putting it into words beautifully, calling it client facilitation skills:
In my mind, client facilitation refers to the processes (and skills) that a consultant uses to get a client organization to critical decision points, deep understanding, and committment to move forward or redirect.

A master of client facilitation is a person that can:

  • Master analysis skills of the trade: use top-down logical reasoning, use many analytical frameworks, work analyses from multiple directions
  • Communicate well: whether it be via face-to-face conversation, writing, phone, or instant messaging (yikes)
  • Teach and frame things properly: because interactions with parties may be varied, quick and because parties may have varying levels of knowledge, one must be able to ramp-up conversation levels quickly and put them in the proper context
  • Recognize where the organization is at and how decisions are made: is the marketing department behind in their understanding? who does the CEO look to as his/her right hand? if so, what are the steps to getting the right hand on-board or up-to-speed? how do we get things to tip? can we get there in one step or will it take two steps?
  • Lead people *without formal authority*: can you educate people, empathize with the organization, get the organization to trust you, and pave a vision and/or outline a set of tradeoffs with such clarity that motion must happen?