Consultancy Skills Toolkit


Identifying Change Issues

The key part of any consultancy is to identify with the client the key change issues the organisation faces - what issues the organisation needs to address and tackle.

There are no hard and fast rules for carrying this out. In practice, one needs to carry out a variety of diagnostics. These may be done by the consultant themselves, by the consultant and the client together, or by the consultant with some or all of the members of the organisation. The following are pen pictures of  typical diagnostics.

Stakeholder  Review

A Stakeholder is somebody (or some organisation) with a vested interest in the performance of the operation. A review of stakeholders requirements and satisfaction is particularly valuable when there are concerns about the task, purpose, or aims of a section or unit. It can be carried out by an individual but is best done by a working group.

Stakeholder Analysis

Customer Survey

If the team feels that the key issues lie in the field of customer service, then the best step is simply to carry out a customers survey. In some cases this is carried out by some or all team members, in other cases just by the team leader.

It is generally best to carry it out in a fairly formal fashion rather than as an appendix to some other conversation. Some tips on doing this together with pen pictures of the techniques can be found in our companion Improving Processes and Service toolkit accessed by the Lindsay Sherwin Home Page.

Staff Survey

In most change situations, staff attitudes and views are key elements of the changes, and the best way to handle this is through a staff survey. Depending on the issues involved, these can be undertaken in a variety of ways the main ones being:

  1. Informal discussions, either individually or in focus groups.
    These can be time-consuming but their informal nature can lead to information and views which might be suppressed in other approaches.
  2. Full questionnaire surveys of the staff involved.
    These can give considerable information but are take time to complete and analyse. Also staff do not always trust such surveys and may withhold views and opinions. Often they need to be carried out by external consultants which can prove costly.
  3. Dipstick Surveys.
    A simple one page questionnaire used at regular intervals during a change programme to measure changes in staff attitudes arising from the change programme. Can be used with a sample of staff rather than everybody.

Process Mapping

If the operation faces problems with delivery performance, reliability, or communications then there are almost certainly weakness in the processes, systems and procedures.

In these circumstances, the assignment will almost certainly involve some work on process mapping - carried out either by the consultant or by a team within the organisation. Some tips on doing this together with pen pictures of the techniques can be found in our companion Improving Processes and Service toolkit accessed by the Lindsay Sherwin Home Page.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis (analysis of strengths and weaknesses) was developed by Igor Ansoff in his book Corporate Strategy and became a cornerstone of corporate planning. It is still used, particularly in change management, marketing and product appraisal and also in personal development.

For a consultant, it is a useful technique to use to help a group to review the organisations  capabilities in terms of its internal Strengths and Weaknesses, and the external Opportunities and Threats which it faces, and then clarify the key development/change issues it needs to tackle.

Carrying out a SWOT analysis simply involves the following:

SWOT Analysis

In an Internal Appraisal,

  • Strengths - identify the organisations Main Strengths - skills, capabilities, delivery,  performance, etc. Select the most important - often  five or six.
  • Weaknesses - Then identify the teams Main Weaknesses. Again selecting the most important. This completes the Internal appraisal. 

In an External Appraisal,

  • Opportunities - identify Main Opportunities that face the organisation. Again selecting the most important.
  • Threats - And then Main Threats that face the organisation. Again selecting the most important. 

By this stage it usually becomes clear what issues confront the organisation. To prioritise, complete the analysis by asking the following questions.

Confrontation Questions

  • For each Opportunity - which strength helps us to take advantage of this, and which weakness inhibits us from doing so.
  • For each Threat - which strength helps us to fight this, and which weakness inhibits us from doing so.

Competitor Analysis

Particularly in the commercial world, many of the change issues may concern competitiveness. In these cases a Competitor Analysis is valuable. This involves comparing the business with its competitors in terms of:

Organisational Self Assessment Frameworks

Many organisations, particularly Public Sector ones, are using some form of self-assessment framework to identify their organisational strengths and weaknesses and using this to develop an improvement plan built upon a series of improvement projects and programmes.

One such framework is the UK Business Excellence Model. This provides an investigative framework which enables a manager or team to assess itself according to nine parameters:

EFQM model

These frameworks can be very helpful and again more information can be found on our companion Improving Processes and Service toolkit accessed by the Lindsay Sherwin Home Page.

Business Analysis and Planning

Last but not least, the issues that the organisation faces may well lie in the fields of profitability and marketing. In such situations the consultant needs to focus on analysing the business and formulating a business plan for the operation.

We will not try to cover such topics here but  books covering such techniques are readily available from bookshops.