Being a consultant means that individual possesses strong analytical skills and technical expertise, which he can transfer to another individual or organization. Customer psychology is central for consulting services as the way consultant develops relationships with the client determine the success of the endeavor. It is evident that consulting services often cause significant resistance, demanding personalized approach to each client and situation. Several models have been developed to describe the process and types of consulting relationships, which can occur between an analyst and a client. Peter Block’s, Scott and Barnes’ and Schein’s Models are in the center of this discussion. The purpose of this document is to outline the core elements of each of the models and compare them, based on the structure of consulting process and roles, which the authors assign to the consultant.
Peter Block’s Consulting Model
The Block’s consulting model is often referred to as the Flowless Model of consulting, where consultation process is divided into five stages, including (1) entry and contracting, (2) discovery and dialogue, (3) feedback and decision to act, (4) engagement and implementation, and (5) extension, recycle or termination (Block, 2011). According to Block, consultation is the process, where the primary goal is to transfer the knowledge from a consultant to a client. The author suggests that the consultant can have three major roles, expert, pay-of-hands and collaborator. The expert comes to solve a specific issue, where the client identifies the need and scope of consultant work. “Pair-of-hands” role, on the other hand, involves following the client’s instructions, but not being able to intervene in the roots of the issue. Finally, collaborator role defines the relationships, where consultant acts as a member of the team and partners with the client to find the issue and implement the most effective solution (Block, 2011). The role of a consultant is critical for the Block's model. The author suggests that client’s readiness for consulting and, in the way, his learning approach determine the type of relationships and the role that this client will be able to accept. With that in mind, the expert, pair-of-hands, and collaborator are the three roles, determined by the client. It is, therefore, the responsibility of a consultant to understand and adapt to each of them, depending on the situation.
Scott and Barnes Consulting Model
Scott and Barnes bring forward the idea of consulting on the inside, where the consulting process is centered around the eight-phase process, including contract, agreement, information and assessment, feedback, alignment, changing target and transition, implementation and evaluation and learning (Scott and Barnes, 2011). The model is focused on internal consulting, which means that the scope and type of the project will determine the level of intervention. Communication, per the authors, is the central element of the client consulting model. With the above in mind, one of the major differentials is the non-interrupted perception of consulting process. More specifically, Scott and Barnes Model suggests that the eight-step process can be applied to any situation, and, while the choice of the intervention model is critical, the role of the consultant is always to identify and fix the issue. Differently, from other consulting models, Scott and Barnes (2011) do not focus on consulting role as they assume that the process of consulting is uniform for any situation and the eight-step model is multifunctional in a way that it can be fit and adapted to any situation.
Edgar H. Schein Consulting Model
Consulting model, developed by Edgar H. Schein recognizes three levels of client consulting, including (1) expert consulting, (2) doctor-patient consulting and (3) process consulting. The author suggests that the relationships developed between a client and consultant depend on the needs and expectations of the client and determine the nature of relationships and the role that consultant plays in the process. The expert role, per Schein, is centered around the telling and selling relationships, where client fulfills personal knowledge gaps with the information and expertise of a consultant. This model suggests that the client defines the need and seeks for consultant support to fulfill it. The doctor-patient model assumes that the client recognizes the need for improvement in internal processes but cannot diagnose this need to establish the specific issue (Schein, 1999). That said the role of consultant in this model is to assume the responsibility of identifying the issue and building on the strategy to tackle it. Finally, the process model suggests that the client and consultant develop relationships, where the consultant assists the client in the process of understanding, perceiving and addressing the issue or a challenge. Under this model, the consultant must build the relationships and help a client to understand the need for action in each situation. Importantly, the roles of the consultant, discussed above, must be understood by the consultant himself and this knowledge can be used to avoid resistance and build effective client-consultant relationships.
When it comes to the comparison of the three models, Scott and Barnes' model is, probably, the one that mostly stands aside. The biggest differential is the fact that the authors do not focus on the identification of the roles and relationships, but rather center their model around the process of consulting itself. That said emotional contribution is not relevant for Scott and Barnes' model, while Block and Schein's approach underpins the role of personal relationships, perceptions and client learning model on the success of consulting process. At the same time, it is evident that all the three models place feedback and communication in the center of the consulting relationships. This critical importance of effective and transparent communication underpins the role of trust and collaboration in building an effective consulting model.
Schein, E.H. (1999). Process Consultation Revised – Building the Helping Relationships. New York: Addison Wesle Publishing.
Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: A Guide to getting your expertise used. 3rd Edn. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Scott, B., & Barnes, B.K. (2011). Consulting on the inside. A practical guide for internal consultants. Alexandria, Va: ASTD Press.