Surviving the first year as a business consultant is the focus of this module, drawing upon feedback and insights from experienced practitioners. We shall explore key frameworks that serve as invaluable tools for consultants. Frameworks offer a foundation for problem-solving and decision-making.
Furthermore, we will examine tips on managing projects and cultivating networks to promote your consultancy. Notably, many of the frameworks introduced have been in use for over two decades, proving their enduring relevance amidst digital transformation. These frameworks encompass contributions from both academics and seasoned consultants.
Reflection upon these frameworks and their application within a consulting business will be an engaging aspect of this module.
Frameworks for Relationships
Frameworks provide a significant advantage, as they establish boundaries and subjects that necessitate critical thinking. This process enables the documentation of thoughts and ideas for broader consideration. Frameworks aid in problem-solving, addressing both client-related issues and those within one’s consulting practice. They offer a structured path and methodology for tackling challenges.
Examples of frameworks include the context map, value proposition canvas, and business model canvas. In terms of relationship-focused frameworks, trust is a vital factor. The age-old adage “know, like, trust, then buy” rings true; people will only engage when these conditions are met.
The Trust Cycle
Trust is undeniably crucial in any relationship. By fostering trust, open relationships with colleagues, clients, and those around you are encouraged.
In the Lencioni (2018) [^1] model, lack of trust is at the pyramid’s base and must be built before addressing conflict, enabling open dialogue about disagreements. Following this, commitment emerges, and without trust as the foundation, accountability cannot be achieved. Ultimately, satisfying these conditions leads to attaining results for both individuals and consultant clients.
Figure 1: Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Numerous trust cycle models can be found online, tailored to specific situations. The widely used trust equation, developed in 2000, is also employed by McKinsey Consultants. The video below elucidates the workings of the trust equation, however, it is not the sole method. Regardless of the approach taken, it is essential to recognise that trust is a crucial component in any relationship. Utilising any model or framework to enhance and strengthen trust with clients proves to be invaluable.
Figure 2: Explaining the Trust Equation
The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument
The Thomas Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) (Kilmann & Thomas 1977) [^3] serves as a valuable tool for addressing conflict within a communication environment. It proves particularly effective in situations involving interpersonal conflict within teams, as well as in business consultations with other individuals. This method facilitates the adaptation of communication to suit the needs of others, ultimately achieving successful outcomes.
At all times, maintaining professionalism and focusing on collaboration is crucial, as illustrated in the matrix provided. While the competing area of the framework might indicate aggression, which may be encountered from others, it is vital to stay within the collaborative phase and strive to comprehend the underlying issues in order to resolve them effectively.
Figure 3: The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument
Situational leadership framework
In 1969, Hershey and Blanchard’s situational leadership theory emerged and has withstood the test of time as a reliable model for leadership. Its usefulness is evident in consulting environments, where questions on how to lead often arise, and the answer frequently depends on the situation. This theory supports such responses and enables consultants to adapt their leadership style according to the circumstances at hand.
The situational leadership theory encompasses four key areas: tell, sell, participate, and delegate, which will be elaborated upon below. In the diagram, quadrant 1 represents the Tell area, where clear direction is applied for management purposes in order to facilitate task completion. Quadrant 2, the Sell area, focuses on a softer coaching environment with emphasis on relationships and receiving feedback from the engaged party.
Quadrant 3 encompasses the supporting area, where participation with the client or staff mameber is key. Though relationships remain important, their improved skill levels lessen concerns regarding task completion. Finally, quadrant 4 involves delegating tasks to capable staff members while maintaining relationships. These four quadrants constitute the situational leadership model. Although operating in a right to left direction, the curve is very similar to the growth pattern discussed in  by 
Figure 4: Hershey and Blanchards Situational Leadership Matrix Models
The original work of Hersey and Blanchard (1969) [^4] could not be located online, but there are discussions in (Northouse 2022) [^5] and also in the book Leadership and the One Minute Manager (Blanchard, Ed.D, & Ed.D 2013) [^6] .
Frameworks to drive Change and Engagement
Business consulting centres on change and problem-solving. When addressing problems, alterations occur; systems transform, issues find resolution, and businesses progress. Consequently, frameworks for managing change and fostering engagement hold great significance. In this section, we shall explore a few of these frameworks.
Kubler-Ross Change Curve
The Kubler-Ross Change Curve, devised by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1969), initially addressed matters of death and dying, yet holds significance in the business realm. The concepts and stages it encompasses resonate with businesses experiencing change. Initially, businesses must confront the surprise or shock of an event and a desire to revert to old ways before accepting the necessity to progress. As a consultant, your role is to guide them through this change and facilitate successful outcomes.
The seven stages of change are:
- Shock – the initial surprise in response to the event
- Denial – disbelief e.g. looking for evidence that it isn’t true
- Frustration – a recognition that things are different, which may involve anger
- Depression – low mood, lacking energy
- Experiment – initial engagement with the new situation
- Decision – learning how to work in the new situation and feeling more positive
- Integration – changes integrated, and a renewed individual.
Figure 5: The Change Curve
By intervening and building a bridge before frustration and depression set in, it can be possible to make the curve more shallow and accelerate the speed of change.
Figure 6: Accelerated Change Curve
The G.R.O.W. model
Figure 7: The GROW model
The GROW model, a well-established coaching framework tool, was developed in the 1980s. GROW, an acronym for Goals, Reality, Options and Will, effectively aids individuals in managing and implementing change. By dividing the change process into these four components, a clear path for change management emerges.
Firstly, the goal represents the desired outcome. Reality encompasses the current situation, what steps may be required to achieve the goals and available resources. Options involve brainstorming ideas and generating potential solutions . Lastly, Will concerns the commitment made to achieve the goal, who will be responsible and the timeframe for completion.
This model proves particularly useful for coaching scenarios where a consultant may lack comprehensive understanding of a client’s specific needs. The GROW model facilitates the change process by prompting the right questions.
Kotter’s eight-step Leading Change model
Figure 8: Kotter’s Leading Change model
Kotter’s 8-step leading change model is more detailed than others, encompassing 8 distinct steps to manage change. It is likely beneficial to document this by identifying each specific phase of the change process to be applied in order to focus on creating a climate for execution of that particular phase.
The initial stage entails fostering a sense of urgency, conveying to all involved that immediate action is necessary to avert consequences. It is crucial that the rationale for change is articulated and supported to ensure comprehension. The second step involves building a guiding coalition, assembling team members and securing their commitment to coordinate the change, including timelines and tasks.
The third step is formulating a strategic vision for the change, envisioning its completion and resulting initiatives. The fourth level suggests enlisting a volunteer army; however, not all may be volunteers. Commitment is essential to prevent resistance, so revisiting previous steps to cultivate commitment is vital.
Enabling action, the next step, often requires removing barriers such as outdated processes or hierarchies. Generating change and creating short-term wins reassures people that progress is being made. Subsequently, sustaining the change by accelerating the process and building on quick victories is essential.
Lastly, implementation of the fulfilled change occurs. Once goals are met and changes enacted, reflection reveals the benefits of moving forward as a united team. Such achievements should be recognised and celebrated by the team that was involved in implementing the change.
Sirota’s Employee Engagement Three-Factor theory
Sirota (2014) [^8] developed the three-factor theory, applicable during times of change with groups of staff or individuals, and suggests that initial high levels of motivation and excitement may diminish over time due to poor practices and treatment within organisations. To counteract this, Sirota(2014) [^8] identifies three specific factors impacting employee enthusiasm.
Firstly, equity and fairness are crucial, as individuals desire fair treatment in the workplace. Though subjectivity comes into play, it remains essential for each person to feel justly treated. Secondly, the concept of achievement is vital. Employees seek recognition and credit for their efforts and yearn for opportunities to engage in meaningful work.
Lastly, camaraderie plays a significant role in the work environment, evidenced by the isolation experienced during COVID-19 remote working. The social aspect of work is important, highlighting the necessity of fostering positive relationships among colleagues.
Frameworks for Problem Solving
Now that we have explored frameworks for nurturing relationships and addressing change and engagement, we turn our attention to frameworks designed to resolve issues within organisations.
Blue Ocean and EERC
The Blue Ocean strategy has been previously covered in  as a model of maintaining or improving sustainable competitive advantage (SCA). Developed by Kim and Mauborgne (2004) [^9] , it refers to the development of new markets where competition does not exist but is created by the organisation. In this way they are creating new customers and building a sustainable competitive advantage by being first to market. The alternate strategy is known as “Red Ocean”.
The ERRC Grid
The ERRC grid, developed by Chan and Mauborgne (2004) [^9] , serves as a supplement to the Blue Ocean Strategy. It delineates how the strategy can be put into action by examining the essential questions for a paradigm shift to transpire.
Figure 9: The ERRC Grid
The Boston Consulting Group Model
The Boston Consulting Group model is a straightforward matrix that positions products, services, and investments in areas based on the icons and their position on the Market Share and Market Growth axes. This makes it easier to determine their placement and value to the organisation. The four quadrants in the matrix are stars, question marks, cash cows, and dogs, as depicted in the video below. Using the metaphorical models to identify market placement facilitates greater ability to examine the position of products, market share and the organisation itself.
McKinsey 7S Model
The McKinsey model diverges from traditional business analysis through strategic thinking. It proposes that a business comprises seven aspects, each holding equal value. Success lies in aligning these aspects. The framework identifies seven elements or S’s, representing either hard or soft facets of the business. Hard aspects, such as strategy, structure and systems, are easier to change, while soft aspects like shared culture, employee skills, and staff are more challenging due to their interpersonal nature.
The model emphasises the interconnectedness of these values; a deficiency in one affects all other areas, highlighting the need for alignment. Utilising this model allows business consultants to pinpoint particular aspects of the McKinsey 7S model that require improvement to achieve alignment with other components.
It should be noted that the 7S framework is an internally focused tool. It does not consider the external factors faced by an organisation.
Figure 10: McKinsey 7S Model
The MECE model, a McKinsey framework developed in the 1960s by Barbara Minto, stands for Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive. Essentially, it represents a segmentation process. When an item is mutually exclusive, it can only fit within one segment of a framework. For instance, a 19-year-old would fit into the 0-20 demographic but not any other.
Conversely, collectively exhaustive implies that the model encompasses all aspects of the population. In this case, age groups in the data might range from 0-20 in the first segment to 65-plus in the last, covering the entire population. However, each individual can only fit within one segment.
It is worth noting that models may not always be mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive. This distinction can impact whether all available data is considered or only partial information and analysis are taken into account.
The video below demonstrates the concept quite clearly at all levels.
Balanced Scorecard Framework
The Balance Scorecard, devised by Kaplan and Norton (1992 [^11], assesses an organisation’s health through four aspects. Naturally, a financial perspective is included to examine the organisation’s financial metrics. Additionally, a customer perspective evaluates how clients perceive the organisation, while an internal perspective considers the capacity to deliver. The fourth element, learning and growth, feeds into both the internal and customer perspectives. In fact, all four interconnect, hence the term “balanced scorecard,” somewhat reflecting the McKinsey 7S’s model where all aspects align.
The original article lists the four key questions to be asked when using the Balanced Scorecard approach (Kaplan & Norton 1992) [^11]:
- How do customers see us? (customer perspective)
- What must we excel at? (internal perspective)
- Can we continue to improve and create value? (innovation and learning perspective)
- How do we look to shareholders? (financial perspective)
An extremely simplified prompt for using the Balanced Scorecard with AI could be:
“Use the Balanced Scorecard to analyze [insert concept]. Focus on the four perspectives: financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth.” Building this out using prompt engineering could be an interesting experiment.
Project management tips
Upon deciding the framework to utilise for addressing the business issue at hand, the subsequent step involves examining the management of the project from inception to completion. It is crucial to understand that each project is entirely unique, necessitating a distinct project management plan. While uniqueness is essential, possessing a transferable project management template within your business consulting practice allows adaptation to each project’s individuality, thus preventing constant reinvention.
Zipursky (2017) [^12] introduces a four-stage process known as the consultancy project management process, designed to aid projects within a business consultancy. According to Zipursky (2017) [^12], delivering business consulting projects in an organised manner yields numerous advantages.
- It’s an easy to use process.
- It is replicable so others can use it as you grow.
- Clients value structure and like to see that you use structure.
- It allows for modularised offerings that are customer friendly.
The significant steps in the video for project management are:
- Assess – consider the project and deliver a high view consulting plan
- Plan – this is the detailed plan part of the process which expands step 1.
- Implementation – implement the recommendations yourself or through the client
- Optimise – review actions and look for further opportunities to improve results
A robust network of business and personal contacts, capable of referring work, is crucial in any industry, particularly in business consulting. The well-known saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” holds significant weight in this field. The more respected connections you have, the higher the likelihood of receiving referrals.
Online platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and to some extent Twitter, offer opportunities to expand one’s network. Additionally, various communities and social clubs such as gymnasiums or service clubs can help establish your reputation and credibility as an ethical and trustworthy individual. This reputation is essential for securing referrals.
However, avoid soliciting business immediately upon meeting new contacts. As mentioned earlier, the process of know, like, trust, and buy applies to networking just as much as with any other form of interaction with potential clients.
Undoubtedly, building your brand is essential for business growth. While some may believe a brand is merely a logo, it encompasses far more. A brand represents how others perceive you in the marketplace, incorporating your logo, website, online articles, reputation, ethics, integrity and overall identity. Differentiation plays a significant role in establishing a brand.
Numerous discussions online highlight varying opinions on the essential values for brand building. Conducting research to identify the most suitable approach for your business is highly recommended. Prioritising the development of your online brand is vital, as this is where potential clients will first encounter you.
Online exposure through well-crafted articles and informative videos can effectively showcase your expertise and communication skills. These resources not only contribute to your brand image but also attract potential clients who discover them.
Millward Brown (Alagon & Samuel 2013) [^13] have developed the “Meaningfully Different Brand Framework” and consider that the most successful brands are:
- Meaningful (client affinity and meets their needs)
- Different (unique and dynamic)
- Salient (meets the client’s needs)
In marketing, identifying one’s ideal or platinum client is crucial. This enables a concentrated focus on the desired market and the precise type of client sought for acquisition. Evaluating the developing client base against the platinum client profile reveals the proportion of achieved clients that match this profile.
Numerous business consultants specialise in particular niches, cultivating a solid reputation, expertise, and experience. However, operating within a niche does not imply an intent to target or attract all clients in that niche; rather, it allows for the selection of those most desirable to work with.
Figure 11: The ideal or Platinum customer
Upon establishing your ideal client and target market, it is vital to integrate this into your online presence and digital marketing approach. Reflect on the optimal methods to connect with your desired customer through online content. Ensure that your website caters to this specific niche and the articles or videos you produce for various platforms also focus on attracting such clients. A client-centric attitude should persistently guide your online presence.
In modern times, a website is undeniably essential. Many assume that creating a website is a simple task, due to online tools. However, it is a specialised field that merits consideration of employing a consultant. A web developer ought to construct your website and transfer management to you, enabling you to maintain it with blog posts, articles, videos, and additional content.
Optimising the website for search engines is crucial for visibility in your area. In all marketing and promotional efforts, consistently include your website link to showcase the services you offer. Although numerous platforms exist for website creation, WordPress is favoured and relatively manageable for novices to update with posts and articles. Simultaneously, retain your relationship with the web developer for utilisation of their expertise when needed.
The RACE Framework, devised by Dr Dave Chaffey (2023) [^14], offers a structure for implementing or designing a website plan. This ensures proper arrangement, leading visitors through a process that engages them with your organisation and ultimately converts them into inquiries at the very least.
Figure 12: The RACE Framework
This has been a substantial module. Previously, we have delved into the initial stages of a business consulting venture and progressed to client engagement. This module explored frameworks for nurturing client relationships and facilitating change and engagement for clients. Notably, we examined frameworks for identifying and resolving business issues, such as the Blue Ocean Strategy, Boston Consulting Group Model, McKinsey 7S Model, MECE Model, and Balanced Scorecard Framework. Each possesses unique applications for varying situations, requiring a tailored approach.
Upon concluding the module’s framework section, we discussed optimal project management strategies, network building, and marketing tips with a focus on online presence. The module has concluded with the development of a Platinum Client whereby a profile is developed of the ultimate consulting client.
[^1]: Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni 2018, Citation Key: HansenBay2018, viewed 14 October 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCxct4CR-To.
[^2]: Trusted Advisor n.d., Understanding The Trust Equation | Trusted Advisor, Trusted Advisor Associates – Training, Workshops, Trust Education, viewed 20 September 2023, https://trustedadvisor.com/why-trust-matters/understanding-trust/understanding-the-trust-equation.
[^3]: Kilmann, RH & Thomas, KW 1977, ‘Developing a Forced-Choice Measure of Conflict-Handling Behavior: The “Mode” Instrument’, Educational and Psychological Measurement July 1, Vol. 37, No. 2, pp. 309–325, SAGE Publications Inc.
[^4]: Hersey, P & Blanchard, KH 1969, ‘Life cycle theory of leadership’, Training & Development Journal, Vol. 23, No. 5, pp. 26–34, American Society for Training & Development, US.
[^5]: Northouse, PG 2022, Leadership: theory and practice, Ninth Edition, SAGE Publishing, Los Angeles.
[^6]: Blanchard, K, Ed.D, DPZ, & Ed.D, DZ 2013, Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership II, Updated ed. edition, William Morrow & Company.
[^7]: Bedard, A n.d., ‘The 8-Step Process for Leading Change | Dr. John Kotter’, Kotter International Inc, viewed 20 September 2023, https://www.kotterinc.com/methodology/8-steps/.
[^8]: Mind Tools Content Team n.d., Sirota’s Three-Factor Theory, Mind Tools, viewed 20 September 2023, https://www.mindtools.com/aesbeov/sirotas-three-factor-theory.
[^9]: Kim, WC & Mauborgne, R 2004, ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’, Harvard Business Review October 1, viewed 20 September 2023, https://hbr.org/2004/10/blue-ocean-strategy.
[^10]: Jurevicius, O 2021, McKinsey 7S Model: The 7S Framework Explained – SM Insight, Strategic Management Insight, viewed 21 September 2023, https://strategicmanagementinsight.com/tools/mckinsey-7s-model-framework/.
[^11]: Kaplan, RS & Norton, DP 1992, ‘The Balanced Scorecard—Measures that Drive Performance’, Harvard Business Review January 1, viewed 21 September 2023, https://hbr.org/1992/01/the-balanced-scorecard-measures-that-drive-performance-2.
[^12]: Proven 4 Stage Consulting Project Process 2017, viewed 22 September 2023, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKrS_REUex4.
[^13]: Alagon, J & Samuel, J 2013, ‘The Meaningfully Different Framework’.
[^14]: Chaffey, D 2023, ‘RACE marketing model definition – What is? – Digital marketing Glossary’, Dr Dave Chaffey : Digital Insights September 5, viewed 22 September 2023, https://www.davechaffey.com/digital-marketing-glossary/race-marketing-planning-model/.
- Smart Growth
- Whitney Johnson
- 04 – Competitive Strategies#Blue Ocean strategy|Strategic Management