What is a Consultant?

From a client’s perspective, a consultant has seven general characteristics.

  • They are costly.
  • They are redundant and duplicative of a client’s existing talent.
  • They reiterate established facts and rarely, if ever, surface new information or contribute novel solutions that were not previously considered, vetoed, or unsuccessfully implemented.
  • They do not have team-specific operational insight and therefore cannot offer worthwhile recommendations.
  • They advise on organizational structures, functional management, and position elimination/reclassification with limited organizational knowledge.
  • They are viewed as an ambassador of executive leadership who typically engage their services, not as a department/team collaborator.
  • They require significant time and client participation during the discovery and data collection phases. Depending on the complexity and interdependence of a project, a client may need to assign staff to support the consultant to prevent delays in deliverables.

Consultant Engagement vs Consultant Relationship

When a team hears “consultant engagement”, the seven characteristics of a consultant come to mind. Much like “The Bobs” characters on Office Space whose role was to “…helping us out a little here, asking some questions, making sure things go a little more smoothly”, staff understand a consultant’s engagement is usually at the behest of executive leadership. Therefore, a consultant is often viewed as an ambassador of executive leadership rather than a collaborator. Consequently, staff are often skeptical of a consultant and fear demotion, reassignment, or loss of employment. Such skepticism was epitomized by The Bobs.

In contrast to the traditional consultant narrative, New Canvas Advising, Inc. seeks to redefine the client: consultant relationship through the Socratic Method. At NCA, our role is as a catalyst to our clients’ existing knowledge of opportunities for improvement. More often than not, employees have incisive understanding of operational challenges and over time engineer work-arounds to mitigate inefficiencies, non-compliance, poor cost avoidance, etc. As a result of developing alternative workflows and processes, teams commonly identify potential solutions. As our clients’ conduit for self-reflection, we facilitate critical thinking to implement solutions that may have been pondered for years but lacked answers to the Five W’s and One H and as such never gained traction. NCA must balance a client’s feelings and perceptions of current state against apprehensions of future state. NCA seeks to empower teams, to marshal shared intellect and technical resources to ensure a solution is designed and executed from an organization readiness perspective and with team buy-in.

New Canvas Advising Policy on Consulting Services

At NCA, the client is the primary focus, not the consultant. The Socratic Method ensures assumptions are challenged; disagreements are invited; varying perspectives and tensions are surfaced; clarity of shared understanding is achieved; personal and professional respect is established out of complex discussions and abstract ideas. The result of such a collaboration informs the client’s future state which may include a new operating model, new project team, reimagined management structure, etc. Ultimately, NCA’s mission is to offer solutions reflective of the team’s aggregate knowledge and ideas which they can choose to altogether implement or only certain elements. It is the client who must take solutions forward, and NCA is honored to partner with our clients on future accomplishments.

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Hannah Thomas has spent the past 23 years in project and program management, working in biotech and healthcare. She received her Masters of Science in Clinical Research Administration from the George Washington School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Hannah has managed projects guiding clinical research and examining patient care. She works to bring big-data, analytics, and critical thinking to solving systemic and programmatic problems.