Consulting – Part 2 – Hired by an Outside Agency

If scores on a particular rating system were low or improvements are needed for funding or accreditation, an agency often hires a consultant to help the ailing center. When the program administrator doesn't hire the consultant, sometimes the role of the consultant is not clear. When this happens, the consultant can be seen by staff as an outsider imposing change on a “good” program. The program view is “Who does she think she is coming in here and wanting this great program to make changes? We’ve been here for x years and we always get high ratings. This new system doesn’t know how great we are and the good work we do. That low score is ridiculous.” The consultant may also be constrained by the number of funded consulting hours to make these changes – most often not enough. The dilemma for the consultant is whether or not to accept the assignment in the first place. Usually, the consultant doesn’t know the full picture until being on site. The times I have been able to make it work, I’ve spent some (unpaid) time talking to the person who hired me, getting more clear about the program – what’s already been done, what can they tell me about the climate there, the history of the program, anything I could use to help me decide whether or not to take the assignment. I’ve also asked the key question – what happens if, when I get there, it appears that the requested assignment would take at least twice or three times the allotted budget? I make it clear that consultancy is my job and that I get paid for my work. (Of course, I give away plenty of time, but that’s MY decision – not the decision of someone who wants to pay me for 24 consultancy hours and expects 48 hours of my time.) I then negotiate reasonable objectives and make them clear to the hiring agency BEFORE I even step into the program. I also ask the hiring agency to contact the program about why they hired me, what they expect from me, and what the consequences to the program would be if the program decided not to make changes or accept most of my suggestions. This way, when I get there, the program knows why I’m there and what I’m supposed to do. Even when there are egregious situations, I can usually find things to support and ways to help administrators realize the importance of making the changes. Has this happened to you? How have you handled it?

Leave a Reply