Consulting Relationshiop

Expectations & Goals in a Consulting Relationship

This post is one in an occasional series to help guide those looking to hire a facilitator.  I wrote this back at the very beginning of my consulting practice and setting client/consultant goals and expectations have served my clients well over the years. Other posts in my informal series on working with a consultant can be found here.  If your questions about facilitation are not answered, please don’t hesitate to email me and I will be glad to help!

The basis for most consulting relationships is often viewed in the context of a scope of work and written contract. The scope of work typically defines in some detail the activities, deliverables and associated timelines. The contract codifies and legalizes the “understanding.” However, I am of the opinion that successful consulting relationships are built upon a shared understanding of goals and expectations that goes beyond negotiating a scope of work and contract. For consulting relationships to work there needs to be effort put into entering into a collaborative mindset. For me consulting relationships need to have a kickoff meeting where everyone gets on the same page about goals and expectations. While I believe that the nature of the consulting project may influence the list of goals and expectations that there are some standard overarching principles that need to be discussed So here is my short list of goals and expectations.

In this consulting relationship we share these goals:

1.  We all want to produce a quality product
2.  We all want to meet the Schedule
3.  We all want to stay on Budget
4.  We all want to make a Profit
5.  We all want to gain mutual trust and confidence
6.  We all want to create the groundwork for new projects

In this consulting relationship we share these expectations:

1. We engage in ongoing and up-front problem solving dialogues
2. We clearly delineate roles and duties
3. We create realistic time lines and budgets
4. We sign-off and cross-check on key decisions/deliverables
5. We have a shared understanding of each other’s business/operation
6. We routinely communicate to build a trusting relationship
7. We become a team rather than internal/external partners

Clarifying goals and expectations at beginning of a consulting relationship is critical to the success of the project. A kick off Meeting is  a great way to clarify expectations and make sure that assumptions are discussed at the front end of a consulting relationship.  As the project moves forward the agreements reached in the kick off meeting can be periodically revisited.  Being explicit about what is typically implicit often defines the difference between a consulting relationship and a successful consulting relationship.


Photo Credit: Alexandra / München

Mark Fulop
Mark founded Facilitation & Process in 2009 to help organizations and communities bridge the gap between where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow. He’s led dozens of Portland nonprofits, government agencies and philanthropic organizations through complex change initiatives including strategic planning, revenue planning, board development, collaboration, and facilitation.