Organisation Development and Team Building

issues involved in Consultant Client Relationships

Think and Grow Rich

Various issues involved in Consultant Client Relationships

Following are the various issues involved in the consultant-client relationships:

  1. Entry and Contracting
  2. Defining the client system
  3. Trust
  4. The nature of the consultant’s expertise
  5. Diagnosis and appropriate interventions
  6. The depth of interventions
  7. On being absorbed by the culture
  8. The Consultant as a model
  9. The Consultant team as a microcosm
  10. Attica Research and the OD process
  11. Client dependency and terminating the relationship
  12. Ethical standards

 Entry and Contracting :

The initial entry process may ‘be as follows:

  • A phone call is made to the consultant by the prospective client
  • A brief description of the problems is made and the same are_discussed briefly.
  •  If it seems that the consultant’s expertise tits the clients’ requirements, a face to face meeting is fixed.
During the first face to face meeting:
  • The consultant explores with the client some of the deeper aspects of, the problem.
  • The consultant and client start to sort out which group will be the starting point of OD interventions
  • If the problem appears to present to OD interventions, the consultant proposes possible solutions.

The following issues may arise during the entry phase:

  • Who can and who should attend a workshop? When and where the workshop is to be held?
  • Whether or not the management group has to be away from their offices for the purpose of attending the workshops?
  • Whether or not the tap person has to be briefed about the interview themes prior to the workshop?
  • The extent of confidentiality of the interviews? Etc.
  • Defining the Client System:
  • Who the client is a very important issue in a consultant-client relationship.
  • Initially, the initial contact, a single manager is the client.
  • As trust and confidence develop between the key client and the consultant both begin, to view the manager and his subordinate team as the client.
  • Then at the last stage, the manager’s total organization is viewed as the client.
  • Hence, the health and vitality of the various organizational subsystems, as well as, the effectiveness and growth of all individual members of the client system, clearly become the consultant concern.
Trust Issue :

The early meetings between consultant and client are attempts at building trust, but there may arise many problems, some of them are as follows:

  • Subordinates may be concerned that they will be manipulated toward their superiors’ goals with little attention given to their own.
  • The Consultant must start neutral. Then the efforts must be to understand the motives of the client.
  • The “good guy, bad guy “ syndrome
  • Confidentiality must be maintained.
Nature of Consultant’s Expertise :

Due to unfamiliarity with the OD methods, the chem tends to put the consultant in the expert’s role (on substantive content). But the consultant should avoid being an expert due to the following reasons:

  • The objective of OD intervention is to help the client system to develop its own resources, whereas the expert role creates dependency.
  • The expert role requires a consultant to defend his recommendations. This reduces flexibility.
  • Expert role hinders in trust building.
  • The expert role leads to enhanced expectations, whereby increasing dependency.
Diagnosis and Appropriate Interventions :

The consultant may have a temptation to apply an intervention technique which he particularly likes and which has produced good results in the past, but may not suit the immediate situation. The intervention should be appr0priate to the diagnosis. The wider the range of interventions with which the consultant is familiar with the more options the consultant can consider.

The depth of Interventions :

A depth of Intervention is an admixture of the following two factors:


The degree to which the data are more or less public versus being hidden or private and the ease with which the intervention skills can be learned.


The closeness to the person’s perceptions of self and the degree to which the effects of an intervention are in the individual in contrast to the organization.

The inherent risk with the depth of intervention is that the closer one moves to the sense of self, the more the inherent processes have to do with emotions, values. and hidden matters and consequently, the more potent they are to do either good or harm.

Being absorbed by the system :

One of the mistakes one can make in the change-agent role is to let oneself be seduced into joining the culture of the client organization.

While one needs to join the culture enough to participate in and enjoy the functional aspects of the prevailing culture, participating in the organization’s pathology will neutralize the consultant’s effectiveness.

Consultant as a Model :

It deals with the issue “Whether change agents are willing and able to practice what they preach.” In the area of feeling, the consultant may be advocating a more open system in which feelings are considered legitimate and their expression important to effective problem solving and at the same time suppressing his own feelings about what is happening in the client system. The consultant must give out clear messages and for that, the consultant’s words and apparent feelings need to be congruent.

Consultant team as a Microcosm :
  • The consultants working as a team can be viewed as a microcosm of the organization they are trying to create:
  • The consultant team must set an example of an effective unit if the team is to enhance its credibility.
  • Practitioners need the effectiveness and that comes from continuous growth and renewal process.
  • The quality of the inter-relationships within the consulting team carries over directly into the quality of their diagnosis, their intervention designs. and their interventions.

Action Research and the OD Process :

Whether the OD process itself will be subject to the ongoing action research being experienced by the client system.

This considers, on the one hand, the issue of congruency and on the other hand the viability of the 0D efforts and effectiveness of the consultants. Unless there are feedback loops relative to various interventions and stages in the OD process, the change agents and the organization will not learn how to make the future OD interventions more effective. This can be done via simple questionnaires and interviews.

The Dependency Issue and Terminating the Relationship:

As the Consultant is in the business of enhancing the client system’s abilities in problem-solving and renewal, the consultant is in the business of assisting the client to internalize skills and insights rather than to create a prolonged dependency relationship

  • In this context an issue of personal importance to the consultant is the dilemma of working to increase the resourcefulness of the client versus wanting to remain involved, to feel needed and to feel competent.
  • As a solution to this dilemma, one approach can be adopted that is “there can be a gradual reduction in external consultant use and as an OD effort reaches its maturity.”
  • Another issue arises when the consultant senses that his assistance is no longer needed or could be greatly reduced. In order to save his resources and to avoid Inconvenience to the client, the consultant must confront this Issue.
Ethical Standards in OD :

There are five categories of ethical dilemmas, which arise in the consultant-client relationship:

  1. Misrepresentation and Collusion
  2. Misuse of Data
  3. Manipulation and coercion
  4. Value and goal conflicts
  5. Technical ineptness

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