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BRIEFING A MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT OR TRAINER
guide explains how to choose a management consultant or trainer for a voluntary or community organisation. We hope it contributes to
many contracts successfully carried out to the satisfaction of the organisation and of the
consultant or trainer.
WRITE THE INITIAL BRIEF
Before trying to
identify a suitable consultant or trainer, it is important to draw up an initial brief for
the work. This could be anything from a short outline of the problem you want to address,
to a more elaborate description of the proposed work, complete with provisional costings
and timetable. If possible this brief should include:
description of your organisation: its purpose and values, what it does, its size and
structure (paid staff, volunteers, management committee/board, members of the organisation, and users/clients), and its finances;
the need or problem
that has led you to consider using an external consultant or trainer, and why you think
this need or problem exists;
what you want the
consultancy or training to achieve;
how you see the
outside person's role (a trainer helping people learn, a facilitator helping
people communicate more openly and effectively with one another, a consultant
helping people address particular tasks or problems, a mentor or coach helping an individual
reflect on her or his experience, and/or any other role you think might be appropriate);
the person or
persons responsible for commissioning the work and for managing the contract;
when you want the
work to start, and if appropriate when you expect or require it to finish;
if appropriate, a
provisional budget for the work (some organisations give a set figure or a maximum figure
and ask the consultant or trainer what can be provided within that amount; others describe
the work and expectations in detail, and ask the consultant or trainer to say what they
would charge for that work);
whether the provisional budget is inclusive or exclusive of VAT (a consultant or trainer who is registered for VAT will have to charge VAT on most or all of the work they do for you);
a description of the
kind of person(s) you want to engage: their values, experience, knowledge, skills and
personal perspectives (this person specification will assist you to apply equal
opportunities principles in selection);
how and when reviews
a deadline for submission of proposals.
The brief should be checked out with others in the organisation to ensure there is
broad agreement about what the work is expected to achieve and what sort of person is sought.
IDENTIFY PEOPLE WITH RELEVANT EXPERTISE
If you want to contact
a large number of MDN members all of whom specialise in management consultancy and training with voluntary organisations you can email a short summary of your brief to MDN by clicking
With your briefing be sure to include your contact
details and a request for the briefing to be forwarded to MDN members. Members who are
interested will contact you direct. Please note that we do not have the capacity to
segment the mailing list and send your brief only to selected members.
If you want to maintain more control over who you contact, MDN's index
of management specialisms includes more than thirty topics relevant to voluntary
sector management (for example evaluation of services, board/management committee roles,
managing change), and more than a dozen approaches or methods of working (for example work with new
managers, organisational reviews, policy development). This list should help you clarify
the nature of the work you want done, and there are links to MDN members who specialise in that type
of work. If nothing on the list is quite right, choose the headings which are closest to
what you want.
MDN members are accustomed to working with a very wide range of not-for-profit organisations, and can
quickly grasp the issues that are likely to be relevant to an organisation like yours. But
for some types of management training or consultancy, it may be important to look for
someone with specific experience in organisations undertaking work similar to yours. The index of sector specialisms lists more than forty types
of organisation (for example disability, arts, economic regeneration), with links to MDN members who have
particular expertise with each type of organisation.
Most MDN members travel throughout the UK. But you may want to try to find someone who is
based near you, so have a look at the regional index
to see if there is someone suitable nearby.
Most MDN members do a range of management training and/or consultancy. To avoid having
lists which became so long as to be meaningless, members were asked to identify eight main
management specialisms and six sector specialisms for the indexes. For detailed
information about individual members you will need to contact them, but first go to www.mdn.org.uk/pages.htm, where most MDN members have a
full page describing their experience and specialisms.
You may also want to use sources other than the MDN listings to locate suitable
individuals or firms. Such sources might include your local council for voluntary service or
rural community council, an umbrella or support organisation for your type of work, and/or
the National Council for Voluntary Organisations directory of approved consultants. You might also want to advertise in voluntary sector, local or national
DRAW UP A SHORTLIST
From the trainers or consultants you have identified from the MDN website, responses to the email sent out by MDN or other sources, choose three to five people who meet most
of the criteria on your person specification.
MAKE INITIAL CONTACT AND ASK FOR INFORMATION
There are two main
options for making contact:
Write to the people
you have shortlisted explaining how you heard of them, enclosing your written brief and
describing the next steps you will be taking to choose a consultant or trainer; or
Start with an
exploratory telephone call and then send the brief if the person is interested and
available and you are still interested.
The purpose of this
stage is to explore in depth your needs and their suitability.
For large tenders, some organisations do two stages to avoid a large number of consultants
putting a lot of time into preparing tenders, which only one will win. In the first stage,
up to ten interested people are asked to send in a short amount of information under given
headings. The organisation then selects a shortlist of three or so. These are invited to
go on to the second stage which involves doing a full tender document, with a different,
more detailed set of headings. Some or all of these people may then be invited for
For shorter pieces of work, written proposals or telephone interviews may be used to gain
more information about the person and the general approach they might take.
The kinds of questions you might ask for work of any size or type include:
Would you be
interested in taking on this work [or, Would you be interested in submitting a tender for
the work based on the written brief]?
Are you available on
the dates or in the timescale required?
What kind of work
have you done before that is relevant to this training or consultancy?
What kind of
approach do you take in general, and what approach would you take to this work?
What relevant skills
or expertise do you have?
What values or
principles underpin your work?
How do you
demonstrate your commitment to equality of opportunity?
Would you be
directly involved in doing the work, or would you pass it on to someone else? If the
latter, how would the person be chosen?
If you would do the
work yourself, would you do it on your own or with others? If the latter, how will your
associates be chosen?
What are your
systems for quality assurance? How do you review and evaluate your work?
What are your fees
for work of this type? Will VAT be charged? What additional costs would you anticipate as
If we want to have a
pre-meeting with you before deciding whether to hire you, do you charge for this meeting
and/or for travel costs?
Can you provide
further written information about yourself?
Can you provide
referees for similar work you have done?
If the work involves
the consultant providing information or advice on financial or legal matters, you should
also confirm that they have appropriate professional indemnity insurance. If the work involves the trainer or consultant doing anything that could lead to property damage or injury (for example computer training, where equipment could be damaged, or teambuilding exercises involving physical games) you should confirm that they have appropriate public liability insurance.
The consultant or trainer will ask questions about your organisation, to seek further
clarity about the brief and to discuss the background to it.
What happens next will depend on the time and money involved in the contract, and on how
you want to involve other people in your organisation in the process. You may be ready to
decide which person to engage or you may want to meet the person, on your own or with
others who will be involved in the consultancy or training.
MEET THE PERSON
straightforward off-the-shelf training, it may not be necessary to meet the trainer before
making a decision about whom to use. But for most consultancy and in-house training it is important
for you and other relevant people in your organisation to meet the person before making a
final decision. The number of consultants/trainers you meet will depend on:
the time and money
involved in the work;
the time and money
involved in pre-meetings;
how many of those
shortlisted meet your essential criteria;
process for deciding whom to hire. One option is to meet several people and then decide.
Another option is to start with the person who seems best suited, from the information you
have received, and then meet your second choice only if the first turns out to be
unsuitable and so on.
The meeting should not
be seen as a "recruitment" interview. Rather, it is a two-way process that is
the start of the potential contract between you and the consultant or trainer. Make sure
the appropriate people from your organisation are present, and be clear beforehand about
how the decision will be made about which person to hire. Also confirm that the person you
are meeting will be doing your work, rather than a colleague who may be less experienced.
When arranging meetings be clear whether the person charges for time and/or expenses. If
they do not charge, you may want to offer to pay travelling expenses and possibly a small
fee in recognition of the time they are giving you. Be aware of the costs to yourselves and the consultant in having repeated meetings.
The meeting should be well planned. If you are meeting several people, you may want to ask
them to make a presentation about how they would tackle the work and what they see as the
key issues. If you are meeting only your first choice you might also want to ask for a
presentation but then both parties decide whether to proceed. The discussion could then
move on to the negotiation of the contract for the work.
These meetings are the opportunity for a discussion and negotiation of your needs, the
details of how they might be addressed, the skills required, the costs, timetables and so
on. They are also an opportunity for you to assess the person's suitability: their general
approach, values, skills, experience and integrity. The way the consultant behaves and the
quality of the presentation and written materials are useful indicators of how the
consultancy itself is likely to proceed.
MAKE THE DECISION
Your original brief
and person specification give the basis for assessing whom you should hire. Evidence for
choosing who to work with will come from your personal contact through phone calls,
meetings or previous contact; written information such as brochures, CVs and tenders; and
references or recommendations from other people.
AGREE THE CONTRACT
Once you have made a
decision, the agreements arrived at should be incorporated into a written contract. This
might be drawn up by you, or by the consultant/trainer, or jointly. The contract covers
both the work which will be done and the conditions under which it will be done.
As a starting point, the contract should include information under the following headings:
the work to be done;
the person(s) who
will be delivering the work;
the person or post-holder who is
the lead contact in the organisation;
the timescale and
deadlines for the stages, if relevant;
the fees to be paid;
what expenses will
be charged for, and at what rate;
trainer/consultant is registered for VAT, and if so whether VAT is included in the fees
and expenses or will be added;
when invoices will
be presented and when they will be paid;
the work to be done
by the organisation e.g. arranging meetings, photocopying;
copyright of written
and other creative materials (note that unless agreed otherwise, copyright belongs to the
creator, i.e. to the consultant/trainer);
how and when the
work will be reviewed and what will happen if either party is dissatisfied;
postponement or termination by the organisation (proportion of fees and timescales);
postponement or termination by the consultant (through illness or emergencies).
Large contracts for
which the person submitted a successful tender will refer to the tender and/or the brief
for more details that must be met. Some consultants have contracting documents themselves
which spell out aspects of the agreement such as when dates are deemed to be confirmed,
the detailed tasks for the organisation in running training events and the copyright of
Both parties should keep signed copies of the contract.
MONITORING AND EVALUATING THE WORK
In all consultancies
there are three aspects that you can evaluate:
This might be the action points agreed at a team development event, the final draft of a
business plan, the new structure document or the final report on the work.
These are the tasks or activities undertaken in order to achieve the desired outcomes and
the way they are carried out. These can be reviewed while they are happening in order to
change them. Reviews at the end will assist in deciding whether to do it that way again in
Evaluating what happens as a result of the work falls into two categories: evaluation of
changes to what you do after the work, and evaluation of the results of those changes.
Evaluating outcomes is
best done over time and will involve reviews months, if not years, after the work was
done. Evaluating results of those changes is not commonly done, not least because it is
the most difficult to do.
If the stages described in the steps above are followed then the framework for this
monitoring and evaluation of the work should be in place. This would include clarity as
what is to be
achieved and success criteria;
stages in the
products of the
agreed ground rules
(e.g. confidentiality both internally and externally to the organisation, to raise
concerns as soon as they occur);
how and when reviews
of the work will happen (e.g. at the end of each session and in the middle and at the end
of the contract);
agreements on how
any concerns will be dealt with. This is likely to be by the lead contact person and those
involved in management and review of the work.
IF YOU ARE DISSATISFIED
Even the best-planned
consultancies can go wrong. The following actions may help to resolve concerns before they
become a major issue:
raise concerns early
and obtain the views of relevant colleagues in the organisation and of the consultant;
refer back to the
contract and the brief;
be clear what you
need to remedy the problem;
use the monitoring
and review processes you have set up;
convene a special
meeting of the group managing the contract (you will probably have to pay for the time of
the consultant in dealing with the concerns, unless you agreed otherwise in the contract);
this type of dissatisfaction is a pattern for you in your work with consultants, and if
so, what causes it;
dissatisfaction is becoming intractable, seek third party advice.
The keys to a
successful arrangement with a consultant or trainer are clarity on the part of the
organisation and the consultant/trainer about what is expected, and willingness to discuss
and resolve problems or issues before they become too serious.
MANAGEMENT DEVELOPMENT NETWORK
PO Box 63494, London SE4 9DA
tel 07479 287325
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