the four ways your organization can benefit from an outside consultant

The Jaffarian Typology of Consultant Roles

Many people think outside consultants do one thing – they come in, study the situation, ask a lot of questions, listen, learn things, run all that through the mill of their special knowledge/experience/expertise, and then make recommendations.

This is half right. Yes, they do that, and it can be enormously valuable for the client. But no, they don’t do one thing. They do at least four.

1.         EXPERT – the client says, “I don’t know how to do this, but you do. Please come and do this task.”

2.         WORKER – the client says, “I know how to do this, and you do too. But I don’t have time. Please come and do this task.”

3.         LEARNER – the client says, “I know how to do this, and you don’t. But I need help, so please come, I’ll show you how to do it, and then you can do this task.”

4.         PARTNER – the client says, “We both have ideas on how to do this. Please come and let’s work on it together.”

In fact, a good outside consultant applies all four roles to almost every project.

1.         The consultant always brings their unique trove of knowledge, experience, and expertise. They always bring an outside perspective to your inside challenges and opportunities. They always bring in expertise that you don’t have.

2.         The consultant always does work. Maybe some come in and just rattle off stuff that comes to their mind, but not most. Most invest time – hours, days, weeks, even months – of solid, serious work to serve the client.  

3.         The consultant is always a learner. They know more than the client on some things, maybe on many things. But the client always knows more than the consultant about their own organization, its challenges and opportunities. The consultant learns new things from every client and every project – and then brings that expertise to the next client.

4.         The consultant and the client always work together in partnership. Both bring important things to the table. In a healthy project, both sides speak to each other, listen to each other, plan the project together, and execute the project as partners.

The moral of this story: be open to all they ways your organization could benefit from the help of an outside consultant.

love, joy, peace … Michael Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation.

Vol. 1 No. 35