Serving as a Change Consultant: Not for the Faint of Heart

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

You’ve heard it dozens of times: Change is hard. So it stands to reason that serving as a change agent isn’t easy. In fact, it requires knowledge about group developmental theory and processes, emotional intelligence and people skills, and years of experience.

In the January 2018 issue of TD at Work,7-Phase Consulting Model for Change Projects,” Alan Landers taps into his 40 years of practice to offer tips on the consulting process: initial contact, contracting, entry, assessment, goal setting and planning, implementation and feedback, and ending or expanding a contract.

As an organizational change agent, your initial contact with a potential client is likely to be someone other than a CEO or executive. It’s important that you treat the person who brings you into an organization as the vital person that she is. Treat her with respect, and keep her in the loop as you continue the contracting process.


After you sign a contract and as you enter your client’s organization, think carefully about how you’ll position yourself: Are you an outside expert? An industry expert? A subject matter expert?

Work to develop relationships, including with people who can serve as your internal champions. Your change champion is someone who is an advocate for the change you are leading; your personal champion is the person who brought who on board and who believes that you are the person who is capable of leading the change initiative.

During the entry stage, Landers also recommends taking these actions:

  • Create a planning and implementation team (PIT). The individuals on this team will serve as an advisory board for planning projects and steps, and will help you oversee the implementation process.
  • Establish a parallel process to deal with executive relations, planning and implementation, organization structural issues, HR issues, and so forth. You will have several balls in the area at one time—the key is high levels of communication and collaboration within the PIT.
  • Understand who the influencers are. Use the knowledge of your change champion to help understand those parties who might be opposed to the intervention and how you might sway them or complete the project regardless of their opposition.
  • Communicate goals and objectives. Individuals who will play a part in the change initiative should have a full understanding of what is required of them. In addition, you should explain to key stakeholders the process and objectives.
  • Wear the “tomato suit.” Be ready for critics and skeptics; treat them with respect despite their opposition to what you are trying to do.

After you meet your potential client but before moving forward with the contracting phase, consider if this organization is one you can—and should—help. Do you have adequate experience? Have you worked with clients of this scale? Will you have entrée to the necessary stakeholders? Is the organization willing to devote the time and resources for a successful completion of the project? Only if you are comfortable with the answers to these questions should you move ahead.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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