How to get the best out of your consultant

How to get the best out of your consultant

The common phrase “You only get back what you put in” is typically applied to the amount of effort you invest in a task. But it can be equally applied to the quality of service and outcomes that you receive from a consultant in a professional services firm.      

While a consultant may be an expert in a particular field, he or she cannot always be expected to have an awareness of any particular concerns you may have on a project. Equally, if you haven’t worked with that consultant before he or she may not be aware of your preferences for simple things such as your preferred method and frequency of communication.

It is important to ask yourself these questions because they may not always align with the practices and habits of the professional services firm or even the wider industry.

A common theme in a Resource Management context is the often maligned notification process, where costs and timeframes associated with gaining resource consent can easily double or treble while also introducing the risk of appeals to the Environment Court. Sometimes due the scale or type of projects this process cannot reasonably be expected to be avoided.

However, there are circumstances where providing your consultant with an understanding of your appetite for risk of public notification in the initial stages of a project can dramatically influence the likelihood of this occurring. This can be achieved through changes to project design or engaging additional experts to support particular aspects of the proposal. There have been many horror stories where early decisions during the formative stages of a project cause the project to progress down the path of public notification or even Environment Court appeal - simply because a consultant either did not ask or was not told by their client at an early stage that they wanted to avoid this process and were happy to change their approach to enable this.

We have all heard of someone saying well if I had of known that was going to be the result at the time I would never have made that decision. By asking yourself four simple questions at the initial stages of your project and conveying these to your consultant reduces the chances of some of these issues arising, while providing your consultant with the ability to match your expectations.

  1. What are my specific goals for this project?
  2. What are my key concerns or apprehensions for the project?
  3. Is there a particular outcome that I want to avoid at all costs?
  4. Is there anything about the process or outcome that I am uncertain of that I need to understand in order to make effective and correct decisions?

This thought leadership article by Nick Grala, a Senior Planner and Senior Associate at Harrison Grierson.

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