How best to use consulting firms

We have had a very positive experience working with Organized Change. They designed a survey for one of our global teams to help design an organizational change and develop scenarios for our strategies. Organized Change is a dependable collaborator who can be relied upon to help us meet our goals.

Organizations in the Middle East seem to use consultants in four ways, some of which are peculiar (and ineffective) to American eyes:

The “Do a study” approach

The first is to hire a consultant to do a study. Consultants certainly may have expertise and domain knowledge that is useful to an organization. For example, we have conducted many employee surveys for our clients, which allows employees to communicate with someone considered “neutral” and outside the organization. Conducting a marketing study is another example. Unfortunately, a study by itself rarely does anything. When we work with our clients, we help them develop a process to move the just data into action and implementation.

The outsourcing approach

The second is to outsource a function or process permanently to an outside organization. “Cloud”computing is one example, where software, bandwidth and data storage is rented rather than owned on one’s own servers. This has tremendous advantages, but it raises a question: How we customize this to exactly what we need and what happens if a vendor disappears? Is this really consulting, or just an opportunity to get an ongoing revenue stream from you?

The “let the consultants do it” approach

The third is let consultants do the work you should do yourself. Many organizations have hired consulting firms to develop their strategic plan. This has two major faults: the lack of ownership by the organization, and a poor path to implementation. If you hire a consulting firm to develop a pretty set of Powerpoint slides, it is easy to blame the consulting firm if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, blaming someone rarely fixes a problem and rarely causes a strategic plan to be implemented. The second problem with someone else developing your strategic plan is that is unclear who has do what to accomplish it.

The pure training approach

Another popular approach is to use “consultants” as trainers. To be clear, training by a vendor can be both useful and necessary. However, training a client in a technique does not mean there is a way to use that training. This approach also assumes that lack of skill or information is the only cause of an organization’s problems, or the only barrier to achieve its goals.

The facilitative, integrative approach

Most American consultants realize they should facilitate decision-making by their clients, and help them develop their own implementation plan. Consultants are there for process, training, information and a being“neutral eye” on the problem. They facilitate meetings of senior management and key stakeholders, and problem solve with the client to develop implementation plans, but the responsibility for decisions and implementation rests with the client. The emphasis is on having the client do most of the work, with suggestions and guidance from the consulting firm.

To put it another way: If you talk to a doctor and you both agree you are overweight, how can they lose the weight for you? They can provide process, measurement and ongoing feedback, but the kilos need to be lost by you, and ultimately, by your own effort.

The details of this process are beyond the scope of this article. We suggest you review our articles on and videos on our website (, and Consensus Builder ™our software to help facilitate strategy and change.

Dr. Chaudron has over 30 years experience. He first came to the Middle East as a consultant in 1993.National and international clients include those in manufacturing, banking, finance, petrochemicals, electronics and aerospace in the United States, France, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Kuwait. He has spoken at numerous national and local conferences and been a major speaker at internationally broadcast teleconferences to over 35,000 people on strategic planning, organizational change, Six Sigma and teambulding. He holds masters and doctorate degrees in Industrial/Organizational psychology