Collaborative consultation is an intricate process that involves parties in an organizational setting allowing them an opportunity to willingly work very closely through the setting of joint goals and directions, taking responsibility in ensuring the achievement of these goals, determining each party’s role in the team and utilizing the skill, knowledge and experience of each team member to achieve the set goals.
In the school context the need for collaborative consultation has been enhanced by the structural changes in the school system in many countries that favours the view that all children should receive education in regular schools despite their handicaps and not in special schools as has been the case in previous years. The fact that regular teachers have not been adequately trained to provide services to these broad needs has necessitated that they work closely with the support personnel in their schools and in the school districts to ensure that services delivery has not been compromised by the increased responsibility. As mentioned earlier, collaborative consultation is a complex process with several factors promoting the establishment and sustenance of collaborative links.
These include frequent communication by way of meetings, phone contacts and mail, efficient leadership, a focus on the key objectives and a method of ensuring that the plan is strictly adhered to.
On the other hand there are several factors that would impinge on the outcome of the process. These factors include lack of an appropriate internal structure within the given setting to support the process, lack of initial consensus by all the parties involved, lack of proper planning of time and other resources, communication barriers among others. This paper examines issues that pertain to school consultation process and identifies the problem areas as well as the role of consultants in the prevention and management of the problems arising.
1. Understanding Consultation relationships
Consultation is generally defined as the self induced and non-hierarchical relationship between two professionals that is initiated by either of them for the purpose of solving or managing work related problems.
It is aimed at assisting the consultee to function more effectively in their designated positions (Schein, Edgar H. (1999). Educational consultation is triadic in nature and involves the consultant, consultee and the third parties who benefit indirectly from the relationship. Educational consultation in recent years has been necessitated by the structural changes that are seeing the extinction of schools for students with special needs.
Today teachers in regular schools are finding themselves with more responsibilities of providing services to students with a broader range of needs. This is done in the regular classroom setting. Children with special needs also are increasingly represented in general education classrooms. In the American educational system, Federal laws relating to children with disabilities, such as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), specify that all students who have disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education, regardless of skill levels or severity of disability, in the least-restrictive environment possible. [Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)]. It is most challenging since this is a relatively new system in most countries and therefore most of the currently serving teachers do not have formal knowledge and skills to perform these additional tasks. This is because the new requirements are just being integrated into the teachers training curriculum. The majority of the teaching population are thus without the proper capacity to handle the changing duties. Consequently there is a need for a close working relationship between the support personnel and regular teachers so as to successfully provide all-inclusive services. Furthermore, the support personnel have traditionally been sidelined from the learning process and were left to only give specialized services such as counseling, giving of advice and other related services. However, times have changed and it becoming increasingly clear that teachers need closely to work together with the support personnel to be able to deliver effective services that meet the broad needs of their clients. The nature of this relationship requires high level of cooperation from the involved parties. This can only be achieved if both parties understand the nature of this relationship
Problems that arise from failures to understand the consultation relationships are varied. In some instances the consultees have developed a feeling of competition towards the consultant. The feeling of competitiveness arises when the teacher feels like the consultant has come to show them how to do their work. This may be due to the fact that now the consultant has a role to play in assisting the teacher handle the additional responsibilities cast upon them. The feeling of competition will hinder the teacher from gaining from this relationship because of the illness of their motives. They will not get involved with the attitude to learn and at worst may come to resent the consultant and by extension the duties that have necessitated the relationship.
Another potentially distractive problem situation is when the consultees feels monitored and supervised by an outsider. This feeling is mainly because the consultants are usually removed from the normal school of hierarchy. The teachers can therefore feel offended by the perceived supervision and may become rebellious and uncooperative. The results are the same as above and should be taken seriously especially by the consultant and the principals to ensure such negative tendencies are detected earlier so that they may be dealt with before developing into major concerns. The third problem that is caused by lack of understanding is lack of commitment on the part of school leadership and other key stakeholders. If not understood, the consultation relationship can heighten suspicion among teachers and parents that is usually associated with the change process. These kinds of problems make it difficult for the objectives of the consulting relationship to be realized.
2. Sensitivity to Multiculturalism
Culture constitutes of dominant beliefs, perspectives, core values of a given population. Sensitivity to multiculturalism is key to delivering effective educational consultation (Pickens, J. E. 1982). The consultant in the educational context can only be able to deliver relevant services if they are sensitive to the cultural factor.
Without appropriate cultural sensitivity on the part of the consultant and the consultee, it is not possible to decipher the beneficiary’s needs accurately. This is because cultural differences can be a source of confusion to the consultant and the students. Different words, actions and behavior can have one meaning in one culture and another in a different culture. For instance holding hands for persons of the same sex is viewed as lewd behavior that is associated with homosexuality in some cultures while in other cultures it is a sign of great friendship. Words and language also have different meanings to different people. Culture can therefore be a big barrier to effective communication in the collaborative consultation process. Effective communication largely determines the outcome of the services that are offered as well as impacting on the consultation relationship that develop thereafter.
The backbone of cultural competence is self identity. Unless the consultant comes to self knowledge, it becomes difficult to understand the background of the clients. It therefore becomes hard to meet their needs. This self-awareness is very helpful in overcoming biases that would rob the consultant of objectivity in their areas of concern. Additionally cultural sensitivity allows one to understand others’ perspectives, values and histories. This allows the consultant to make accurate judgements on present circumstances, actions and pattern of thought of the consultee or student. Similarly cultural sensitivity, recognizes a variety of cultural communication patterns, and allows for intervention in the natural course of teaching.
There are several problems associated with lack of multicultural sensitivity. When consultation services offered lack cultural sensitivity the students’ needs are not met. This is a significant problem since meeting the needs of the student is one of the main objectives of educational consultation. Thirdly, cultural insensitivity denies the consultant and consultee an important opportunity to create home-school linkage (Slavin, R.E. 1990). The new school system is designed to ensure that there is no discrimination or segregation in regards to natural handicaps or special needs. It is therefore imperative that children experience the same treatment in school at home. This includes parents of children with special needs as well as parents of normal children. They all need to understand the process and how to integrate those children with special needs into the mainstream society without treating them specially or in a manner to suggest they are not like everybody else. Additionally, this being a relatively new practice and a deviation from how things have been previously done, bringing everyone on board by way of teaching and imparting the importance of the process so that they can better understand the rationale behind it. A holistic approach is required that involves all the stakeholders and ensuring that none is left behind. This is because significant problems can arise that would negate the progress made.
Part B. Solutions
1. Understanding Consultation relationships
The consultant is the most apt person to take remedial actions by revisiting of his/ her training in taking the problems that arise from lack of proper understanding of the consulting relationship. The consultant has to take the lead role. Various problems call for varied approaches. For instance in cases when the consultant detects feelings of competition from the consul tee there options that are available would include lobbying for support from the school leadership. This would require the consultant to personally seek the principal or the deputy principal and explain the concept on a one basis making sure that hey are not only fully grasp the concept but also begin to clearly see the benefits. Usually the principles would not be ignorant of these matters but there is no harm in confirming it. This ensures that the consultant is certain of the leadership’s support as well as understanding. It also establishes one of the most of powerful partnership that is in it an example of collaborative consultation. The consultants goal in such case would be to make sure that the leadership namely parents and teachers. This strategy worked very well in a junior school I worked in. the teachers were reluctant to work with me as I was younger than rest of them and they felt I was a threat to them. My knowledge of collaborative consultation was very hardly and I was able to gain the principals support. Once that had been done I enlisted the support of another respected senior teacher with whom I shared my sentiments and concerns with the two of them I was able to neutralize the ill feelings of the rest of the teachers and in the end we all were able to happily work together.
Similarly, with the second problem of the teachers feels supervised by an outsider can be reduced by lobbying for support as well as careful communication of the concepts objectives. It is important that the consultant listens carefully to the consultees sentiments. It helps self a partnership with consultee with such feelings whereby the consultee requests for input on how the consultee thinks ought to be the way forward thus assures the consultees that these opinions are important. This has an effect of quelling the feelings of animosity. The strategy together with the aforementioned lobbying for support brings about favorable results.
Lack of understanding causes a non committal attitude in the school, leadership, the teachers as well as parents. This s is because these stakeholders do not understand the importance of the concept hence do not wish to commit their time in getting involved communication should be focused on the benefits of the collaboration in making the work of the consultee easier. The consultant points out how the consultee is gaining and how they can become more effective in their current duties through collaboration. The most important factor however is carefully educating all stakeholders so that they fully understand the consultation relationship.
2. Sensitivity to Multiculturalism
Since the consultant is not immune to the problem of cultural insensitivity, the first step should be for the consultant to seek to understand his/ her culture and background as well as ethnic and racial heritage. This allows them to be able to understand their perspective on biases and be able to put them in the appropriate cultural context. It is by understanding their own cultural content that consultants are able to interpret the other people (Clients and consultees) perspectives. One way of dealing with the issues of self awareness is by self exploration whereby the consultant takes time to carefully evaluating ones background and history and identify beliefs, values, ethnic/ stereotype behavior that form the pattern of ones thoughts. This is important since is helps in identifying potential biases and prejudices and finding means to avoid them. Once the consultant is in touch with their cultural background, the other thing is to learn about social, political and cultural histories of the client and consultee. This goes a long way into helping the consultant to better understand their values, beliefs and perspectives. The consultant to better understand their values, beliefs and perspectives. The consultant should commit time and energy to learning all there is to learn about the cultural histories of the consultee and clients so as to be informed by the culture of the environment in which the consultation process takes place. This understanding of culture can be the medium through which one understands the content and process of consultation. The object is to be able to adopt a perspective that reflects the cultural context of consultee and consultants points of view (Ingram, 2000). I learnt a great deal in my teaching practice where the above strategies helped to integrate children’s individual goals into instruction by allowing me to intervene immediately in the cultural context of naturally occurring classroom activities. This timely intervention gave confidence to the children so much that some of the disabled children were quickly able to reach the developmental goal of asking for a snack at the right time.
The other competence that can reduce the problems that arise from lack of multicultural sensitivities is the use of the qualitative approach. Some of characteristics of qualitative information gathering include a naturalistic inquiry where real world situation are student openly, a holistic approach that puts emphasis on the importance of interrelationship and personal contact that allow the gathering of information that is rich and linguistically descriptive of the consultee or clients experiences. Skills in qualitative research methodologies especially ethnography. is helpful since the information gathered will be rich in explaining much about the consultee and the client.
School collaborative consultation is clearly an area of study that has not yet been explored to great depths. However, available literature converge to the conclusion that the importance of this area of study cannot be undermined if the structural changes in the school systems are to provide an appropriate and all inclusive curriculum that effectively accommodate children with broad learning and social needs. This article has examined two issues that pertain to school consultation namely, understanding the consultation relationship and sensitivity to multiculturalism, This issue can be a source of several problems that can result in the children’s need not being met. Some of these problems are associated with general change process. For instance lack of understanding of the consulting relationship can result in suspicion in the part of the potential consultee. Being insensitive to multiculturalism takes a toll on the consultants and consultee’s capacity to interpret other people’s perspectives and values.
These issues among others have to be thoroughly understood by all stakeholders in order to ensure that the consultative collaborative process is successful and achieves the objectives for which it’s designed.
Ingram, C. L. (2000). Consultation through a multicultural lens. Multicultural and cross- cultural Consultations in Schools. Schools Psychology Review.
Pickens, J. E. (1982). Without Bias: A Guidebook for Nondiscriminatory Communication. 2d ed.
NewYork, NY: John Wiley and Sons.
Schein, Edgar H. (1999). Process Consultation Revisited: Building the Helping Relationship.
Slavin, R.E. (1990). ‘General education under the regular education initiative: How must it
change?’ Remedial and Special Education, 11, pp. 40–50. (370 P45)
Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). http://www.udel.edu
 See Flick, U. (1998). An Introduction to Qualitative Research. London. Sage.
What Are The Strengths And Limitations Of Consultancy Theory In Relation To Its Practice?
Consultancy theory is a systematic evaluation process in businesses that is aimed at identifying critical areas of a production process in an organisation that needs improvement to ensure continuous quality production. Consultation may be internal or external depending with the situation and requirements in organisation. Consultancy has both positive and negative impacts to an organisation depending with its strengths and weaknesses. A client-consultant relationship is involved as the two main entities in the process and it has to take both professional and ethical approaches for a success. Both the client and the consultants should know their roles in the relationship to enhance its efficiency.
There are different consultancy approaches, which have certain differences on their theoretical levels with specific development phases and certain additional ones that make the difference (Kubr 2002). The common phases in the consultancy approaches include introduction, analysis, design, implementation and operation (Kai 2002). There are three main consultancy approaches including hiring/ outsourcing of experts, doctor-patient and process consultation approaches (Townsend 2001). In addition, there are different consultancy firms and they all use different approaches by implementing additional phases in their conceptual models.
The consultancy firms included first, Boston Consulting Group, which emphasizes on a detailed initialisation phase where the top executives have to be fully involved to accept the recommended changes. The senior executive has to find a way through which organisational change has to be accepted internally and the required technical resources are adequately provided for the transformation process (Kai 2002). Second, McKinsey that stresses on iterative reengineering between designs and analysis phases. Third, Brain that uses pilot testing for new processes just as it is in McKinsey in the labs before final system implementation to ensure user acceptance and enhanced usability. Forth, Anderson consulting which has emphasized on technology use from analysis to final implementation of new and incumbent IT infrastructures and the application processes.
Negative and positive impacts of consultancy approaches internally and externally
Different consultancy approaches have different impacts on an organisation whether internal or external. These effects can be investigated when the approaches are each evaluated separately depending on how they can be implemented in the organisations. First, purchasing expertise, which is mostly applicable when an organisation has defined a problem and the resources are inadequate for instance inadequate technical expertise or time so outsource the services (Townsend 2001). This will impact on the organisation positively because they will have received the services that could not have afforded in a relatively easier way to improve on their productions. On the other hand, this may impact negatively on the organisation because it is may be expensive particularly when it has to be done on large scale (Werr & Pemer 2005).
Second, doctor-patient approach is where a consultant is invited to carry out a diagnosis on the firm such as auditing to identify any errors or malfunctioning in a system (Townsend 2001). The consultant may be outsourced or called from the other departments within the organisation. The process will impact positively on the organisation because it is a way through which the company can enhance transparency of their operations and integrity of the systems through the system audits. Moreover, it will be more beneficial if an organisation can achieve it internally because it will be relatively cheaper leading to operational efficiency and effectiveness and will lead to improved trust amongst members of the organization (Werr & Styhre 2003). On the side of the continuum, outsourcing an auditor may be very expensive and may lead to poor reputation of a company especially if the company is inefficient (Byrne 2002; Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004).
Third, processing consulting approach, this mainly stresses on how things should be done having known what has to be done. This approach encourages members of an organisation to adhere to the appropriate project schedules. This may be done using the available technical resources within the organisation without necessarily outsourcing (Townsend 2001). This would impact positively on the organisation through improved efficiency on resource usage, in time completion of projects and within the required resources, adherence to production processes leading to improved quality and conformity. Process consulting may impact on an organisation negatively particularly when the required expertise for a project completion are inadequate leading to outsourcing which may be expensive in terms of need to train or familiarise the members with the system produced.
Analytical awareness of ethical and professional issues with consultancy
Stephen Consultants are much a ware of the ethical and professional issues during their work. Professional and ethical issues are considered for many reasons such as sales and marketing tool, risk management strategy, social and corporate responsibility that goes beyond the organisational stated missions (Lautens 2009). This is because commitment to ethical and professional standards is the core features of a success in a business (Warren 2004). Ethical behaviours has to be applied on various consultation services in an organisation including. First, management where ethical and professional issues should be considered when legal, social and moral issues such as settling disputes or grievances amongst employees is being done (Teubner 2000).
Second, inventory services records should be professionally documented to show the clear picture of an organization in terms of business structures and processes in all departments to easily identify the benefits and limitations as faced by members of the organisation. Senior executives should be aware of the problems that their employees face in their workplaces to be able to find a lasting solution. Third, communication ethics for example during seminars or workshops. This involves training the employees on relational or interpersonal values required in the organization to promote quality of production and efficiency. Organisations have carried (Clark & Fincham 2002).
Forth, general ethical behaviours as a way through which members of an organisation can become more flexible and easily adaptable to their environment. Consultants will review the internal structures and processes in the organization and advice or suggest for any improvements if necessary (Lindberg & Furusten 2005). Through consultancy theory, the consultants will always help an organisation to come up with the appropriate development tools that will be used to improve the corporate social responsibility to be an ethical culture (Sturdy et al 2006a). In most cases, a formalised and professional approach has been used during consultancy processes based on reasoning such as rigorous management processes, control and evaluation of consultants and strategic planning done (Lindberg & Furusten 2005).
Analytical understanding of consultancy theory in conscious and unconscious elements in the client- consultancy relationship
There have been increased failures in the consultancy services and it has been established that most of these failures are because of the client-consultant relationship depending on their personality such as level of expertise, technical limitations, poor relationships leading to inefficiency in communication and organisational socio-political issues. The success of a given consultancy project relies on the consultant –client relationship (Karantinou & Hoog 2001; Gammelsaeter 2002; Fincham 2003; Kakabadse et al 2006; Sturdy et al 2006a; Appelbaum 2004; Appelbaum & Steed 2005; Werr & Styhre 2003). A good relationship in a consultancy contract requires good communication system in which the key stakeholders will be easily reached for any consultations leading to a quality production system.
Consultant client relationship is very fundamental because these are two different entities that are interrelated and they are meant to work together or as a team for a success (Reid & Gibb 2004). A third party has to be involved to facilitate communication between them. The third party may be a technology based system or an expert and therefore in case of a technology base system, a more interactive and user-friendly system should be made to facilitate information collection from the client (Sturdy et al 2006b). This is because the client and consultant are tightly coupled with the third party and it is only through communication where information flow between the client and consultant has to go through the agent (Luhmann 2005; Konigswieser & Hillebrand 2005, p.33).
It has been established that the majority of consultancy failures are due to client-consultants relationship resulting from inadequate technical expertise, personality, poor client-consultant relationship and socio-political issues in an organisation. In many cases, external consultancy has been preferred to internal consultancy in the organisations. This is in order to prevent biasness in decision-making while designing strategic improvement plans in an organisation. Clients have been the sole determinants of the transformation factors or strategies in the organisations and the consultants only come in to advise on how to achieve what they have decided to do. In the event of a failure in the processes, the consultants have always been blamed even though the clients might have contributed to it directly or indirectly especially depending on the support they gave to the consultants (Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004, p. 1207)
Evaluation of consultancy theories in developing integrated approach to clients and consultant roles
Evaluation of consultancy theories in many cases has raised many questions amongst the public as to why an evaluation has to be done in an organisation. Evaluation process is meant for ensure the activities carried out in an organisation are favourable to organisational members and for authenticating their safety when using the new products (Nassehi 2005). An integrated unit has been formed to help educate people on evaluation as a standardised process that systematically assess the worthiness or merit of a product for example a policy set in an organisation to improve quality performance (Kriven 1999). Evaluation of the consultancy theories is based on two main phases. First, production of findings if the product meets the stakeholders requirements and reporting on the value or merit of the product. Second, using the findings or report generated to plan for the recommended changes that will involve reworking on the development stages (Luhmann 2002).
Evaluation of the consultancy theories has been based on an interim draft proposed which stresses on structuring your report findings to include the recommendations of the current initiatives until the product worthiness will have been achieved (Kriven 1999). This is mainly to get the required input from the executives to help formulate the relevant and useful recommendations. The interim report will be used as the final report from the managers having contributed accordingly to the draft and the report is used within the integrated system of the stakeholders for the evaluation process (Mohe 2005). This encourages participation of the project team leading to quality production. Clients and consultants have been encouraged to reconsider their approaches in consulting theories practices to avoid possibilities of negligence or over estimation when getting into client consultant relationships. It is the role of a client to actively participate and take it upon them as to be self-responsibility (Mohe & Seidl 2007).
According to Golden (2005), it the role of a consultant to convince the client that there is a problem in their organization that the consultants can easily provide a lasting solution to for the managers to accept their services. The consultants have to be keen on the clients’ requirements to come up with the right recommendations for improvement strategies and plans leading to quality production. On the other hand, the client has the role of explaining their problems on the existing system and their requirements for the consultants to work on them with ease. After the consultation services have done as agreed, it is the role of the client to ensure the clients are paid for the services as agreed and the consultants should ensure the clients get an efficient and cost effective product. To ensure the worthiness of the product, an evaluation process has to be carried out to attest the product efficiency and effectiveness to the stakeholders in an organisation.
Diagnostic and research issues in consultancy
Diagnostics and research on consultancy issue suggests that employee’s potentiality in workplaces should be developed to make individuals participate actively in quick decision-making using real life initiatives to maintain the status quo in their daily operations (Wilson 2006). This is the working environment that will be favourable for supporting and developing each other leading to production of quality leaders who are inspirational to their fellows (Smith 2001). Inspirational leaders will encourage teamwork leading to shared vision and mobilization of other workers towards real and lasting success opportunities in an organisation (Pries & Stone 2004).
Diagnostic and research in consultancy emphasises on certain capabilities in an organisation including. First, a 360 degrees feedback system that provides both individual and group perception of issues in an extensive manner leading to leadership effectiveness (Wilson 2006). Second, integrated management system to assess the individual employees’ performance to monitor each and everyone’s activities and their contribution towards quality performance. Third, diagnostics of the organization and its stakeholders that involve the stakeholders’ different views towards the organisational culture, capabilities and preparedness for change. Different diagnostic systems have therefore been developed to assist in fostering improvement qualities in organisations such as leadership, management competencies, and preparedness for change, governance and organisational culture (Obolensky 2001).
Strengths of consultancy theory
Consultancy theory involves many phases such as evaluation, which is done by a separate body making it strength to the theory. This is because an evaluator being a separate body serve as a guide on knowledge production for decision-making to ensure the product is equally beneficial to all stakeholders (Luhmann 2003). The evaluator will ensure the product worthiness to the users by suggesting for any improvements necessary to ensure it is operationally effective and efficient (Kriven 1999). Moreover, the strength of the consultancy theory is that they offer objectivity using wide range of experiences and analytical skills to their clients leading to improved quality products (Klenter & Möllgard 2006).
Consultants may also be fully committed to their clients to offer full time services such as free training to organisations leading to empowerment of the members of the organisation (Nerida 2009; Ko et al 2005). Consultancy theory strengths are the following. First, objectivity that stresses on independent and impartial viewpoint of an individual that is free from biases that may result from personal interests, prejudice, allegiance or socio-politics. Second, the consultants have a wide variety of experience having dealt with different organisations with different and unique user requirements in different industries. The varied knowledge can be applied in completely different organizations based on their similarities in objectives and goals leading to improved quality and efficiency (Nerida 2009).
Third, diagnostic skills can be easily applied in different problems in an organisation to identify areas where improvements are required to enhance organizational productivity. Consultants are well equipped with analytical skills and knowledge leading to increased concentration and participation on the problems raised by the organisations (Nerida 2009). Enhanced participation will lead to clear definition of the user requirements to facilitate formulation of strategic plans through a lasting solution can be achieved. Forth, full-time attention from the consultants to their services without any disruption or monitoring from the organisational executive. Consultants are in most cases genuine with their services and will work little or no supervision from their clients.
Limitations of consultancy theory
There are limitations of the consultancy theory such as misleading the clients to make money. Some consultants are business-oriented and will only convenience a client in order to find money and never bother to deliver quality products. According to Niehaves et al (2007), the consultants have to convince the clients that they have a problem and it is through their service that the client will succeed. This is misleading and in some cases, inexperienced consultants may take advantage of that to earn money from their clients without any quality improvements. In addition, another limitation of consultancy theory is that, it may be too expensive especially for the developing organisation (Pinault 2001). In many cases, the managers have not trusted the consultants since they are not aware of what to expect from them while in other cases the less experienced consultants have may have mislead other managers (Nerida 2009).
Another limitation is that consultancy theory is still new in many places and so most managers still do not trust the consultants. It is very difficult for the consultants to convince the clients on their capabilities of making the organisation more competitive through operational efficiency and effective practices. Moreover, many organisations fear change and so because consultancy is based on organisational change that has to start internally in an organisation, it may not be a favourable choice for them (Nerida 2009). This is because managers fear for the uncertainties that may happen such as failure of the change strategies leading to losses or being more incompetent in the business environment. This is more often with the external consultants who in most cases are assumed to be in a position to give a poor reputation of an organisation after carrying out an analysis or an audit (Byrne 2002; Sorge & van Witteloostuijn 2004).
Consultation is an essential practice in almost all business sectors in all economies. There is increasing use of information technology particularly ERP in the markets which is also associated with the political issues. Consulting processes involves negotiation between management, consultants and employees making it more political when IT is used in an organisation as a way through which they can support and promote their interests (Niehaves et al 2007). The consultant-client relationship should be encouraged in any consultation project. This is because through a good relationship, the two entities will be able to communicate well to understand each other’s requirements and capabilities for the suggested project (Golden 2005). As a requirement, the consultant is not just to offer unique solutions but should understand well the client requirements to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
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U Café : Internet Café And Karaoke Bar
This consultancy report has been written especially for U Café, an internet and karaoke bar founded by two friends who have no previous experience in running a similar type of business and has in turn approached me to give them the necessary advice as to how to run it profitably. I have reason to believe that my knowledge in the fundamentals of management as an M Com student would undoubtedly prove to be handy in giving the right type of mentoring for the two partners. The areas I have highlighted as the most important ones for the two partners to have a fair idea of going about with their new venture are the specific general management theories which their new business could make use of. Apart from understanding the theories well enough I have taken the privilege to enhance their knowledge about the external environment, ethics and corporate social responsibility, the internal environment, organizational culture and strategy and structure. I have selected these six items from the list of eleven items that are part of our course and has given due importance to these main items after making sure that these six items would undoubtedly help the two partners in getting along with their business. In due course of time these selected items contained in this report would give them the idea about how to plan in advance and formulate the right strategy for their business such that they always keep on having a definite edge over their competitors in this area.
The idea of starting a combined internet café and a karaoke bar in the midst of the local community is without doubt a unique move. As there is no other competitors offering similar service the concept of an internet café cum karaoke bar and naming it aptly as ‘U Café’ is indeed novel. There is thus strong reason to believe that the ‘U Café’ would reap the benefits of a new concept among the customers of the local community. However, it is also seen that the two partners of ‘U Café’ are not quite well versed in the art of contemporary management and due to the confusion prevailing in their minds as to how to manage the whole business they have approached me for giving them the necessary consultancy and guidance. The following has been noted during the course of investigation of the whole business of ‘U Café’ and the same is being forwarded to the two partners so that they can make use of the report to manage their day to day operations as well draw out a long term objective of the internet café cum karaoke bar.
General Management Theories applicable to ‘U Café’
As the two young partners are not quite well versed in the art of management it is quite imperative for this report to lay out the initial idea about managing a small business. For this the business owners should have some idea about the contemporary management theories which would best help them make the right management move in the right way. It was Frederick Taylor who laid the foundation of management through the introduction of his scientific management. He regarded the concept of management as one of timed observation and choosing of only one best way for getting the maximum results out of the workers. In fact, he was of the opinion that the employees of an organization should follow the ‘one best practice’ as dictated by the management and shouldn’t allow the workers to take any deviation from it whatsoever. He showed the way for the work to be divided amongst the management and the workers with the management performing the task of planning and instruction while the workers performing the labor. It was his idea to simplify complex tasks by breaking it down into a number of subtasks and allowing each group of workers to perform the same continuously and productively. For the partners of the ‘U Café’ there is a lesson here that it would be better if it initially planned to set its tasks for groups and see that they follow it promptly. When the business starts on its feet then other management theories can be introduced. Among one such theory is the classical organization theory. Belonging to the classical theories are the two towering theorists and these are Max Weber with his bureaucratic theory and Henri Fayol with his administrative theory. Max Weber’s bureaucratic theory has a set of principles and these are quite relevant for ‘U Café’ and these are fixed and official jurisdiction areas, a hierarchic structure of higher and lower management cadres which are written down in records with official activities given the maximum priority and excellent training of personnel. In case of Henri Fayol’s administrative theory the idea is to focus on the management level of things and these are through five principle roles including forecasting and planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating and to control. In this theory the organization should be able to plan and forecast its activities well in advance and then act accordingly. ‘U Café’ can likewise make use of these principles in its run uphill once its initial stages are set. For this it has to have a mission and vision statement that should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). Once this mission statement is in place then the owners and the managers can look forward to achieving the objectives.
The next theory is the behavioral theory by Elton Mayo which states that work satisfaction is the basis of good performance. They in fact depend to a greater deal on working conditions and attitudes within an organization. Here, free flow of communication, positive responses from management and excellent working environment. This can be achieved by ‘U Café’ if it allowed some flexibility to the hierarchic order and attended to the feedbacks received from the supply chain. This would mean right from the stage where it got its supplies, uninterrupted broad band connection, transporting of supplies including kitchen supplies and CDs to that of the ultimate satisfaction of its customers. It would be better for U Café to think in terms of behavioral theory for it has good plans to employ one or more experienced computer technician or audio visual specialists as well as experienced bar staff. A strong work force who thinks that the workplace is the best place apart from their own home will be more efficient in their work than otherwise. However, while taking a final decision the owners must do so by taking into account all aspects of the current situation at U Café as the situational or contingency theory suggests. This means their prime focus while making decisions is to ascertain the situation in hand and whether there is need for autocratic style or participative style or facilitative or bit of one and another. The chaos theory of management is not applicable to U Café at this moment for it has to grow or expand into a larger chain of network for more complexity. However, the team building theory is quite practicable for the internet café cum karaoke bar for this theory emphasizes quality and best practices and steady continuous improvement of all resources of the business. This therefore means that the best way to achieve this is by relying of good and efficient team work like bar section, internet section, kitchen section for snacks, serving section and accounting section. The quality factor is rather very important for U Café as anything amiss may spell disaster for it both in the short and long run. A little bit of quality theory as expounded by Edward Deming can make shape the business even better. As the Japanese have showed over time how their focus on quality has made their products achieve worldwide reputation.
The two partners can also make note of the management ideas postulated by Douglas McGregor in his ‘Theory X’ and ‘Theory Y’. This is based on the human behavior aspect and states that a business is carried on by the belief of its owners. Theory X gives a negative view of human behavior as it assumes that workers are quite immature, irresponsible and need someone or the other to guide them as well as control them. Theory Y is the opposite of Theory X and states that people workers by their very nature wants self fulfillment and hence they aim for self respect, self development and make conscious efforts over their work. Thus, it needs a motivated well rewarded workforce to do a job properly and efficiently.
The External Environment
Although the internal environment of a business can be a significant contributory factor to its future profitability and growth one should not underestimate the impact of external environment as this can pave way for changes in the way the business is managed. The external environment influences the business in several ways ranging from economic factors, socio political forces, ecological forces, competitors, customers and labor unions. In the case of U Café it is greatly influenced by external factors although not all of them. The external factors that would influence it would be as hereunder:
(i) Economic Conditions
The economic condition of the country is of foremost important among all other external factors affecting a business. This is mainly because the business would find fewer customers coming to purchase its goods or services during times of recession. In case of U Café the chances of fewer customers coming to its shop is more as the customers would have less money to spend during recessionary periods. The existing customers would prefer a quick internet browsing rather than spend hours over such things like chat or other messaging. The same is with the case with the karaoke bar where this would again lead to thinning of crowd. The sale of snacks and beverages would undoubtedly see a decline. The reverse is the case when there is a boom time.
(ii) Socio Cultural Environment
The socio cultural environment refers to the society’s attitudes and cultural values and has to be taken into consideration when the organization engages in commercial activities. This means that the business ought to conduct its operation keeping in mind the social and cultural aspects and beliefs of the people of the community where it is situated. In case of U Café it should respect the customs and culture of the people living within the local community. During a careful analysis of the situation U Café is well positioned to offer its free services to customers as it is situated in a free democratic society with a broad minded ethnic minority community. Yet, it can give itself a new look with decorative features during times of festivity of any national or local festivity irrespective of cultural groups. In this way it can foster good relationship with its customers as they come from all walks of life and can enhance the goodwill of the internet and karaoke bar.
(iii) Technological Environment
The technological environment is an important external factor to be studied keenly by any business. Any changes in the technological front can swing the demand of the organization’s goods and services. In case there has been a technological improvement or breakthroughs in the product then the business may see a rush of customers while the reverse is true if the competitors gain an edge over it with a novel idea or superior service. U Café should be well aware of the developments occurring around it and see whether the competition has made any significant changes too. The easy availability of internet over the mobile as well as free services offered at the premises of established food chain restaurants can be a threat to its business.
All business small or large has to face up to the competition from other businesses. This can be anything from the uniqueness of services, new product line, a new idea or lower price or high quality of its products and services. In case of U Café it has to make sure that its owners are well aware of the latest developments in the market and must introduce newer techniques and creative ideas to give the business an edge over the competition.
Other external factors like the political environment or labor unionism wouldn’t affect U Café as it is a small business and unions are formed in organization where there is large number of workforce. In case of political conditions too U Café is hardly affected. This is because the country is a democracy and any change in the government wouldn’t lead to any drastic changes in law or licensing procedures of such business.
Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility
Ethics and corporate social responsibility stems out of the need to project the image of the organization in the minds of the customers to gain their confidence. This not only means that the business is putting out its right image, but must go a long way in fulfilling the needs of its valued customer on a continuous basis. In order to gain respect and confidence of the customers the business must go the extra mile to understand the consumer’s demands and their business practice must be in aligned with the ethical code of conducts as stated by the leaders.
In order to implement standards into an organization or small business, the first and foremost point is to recognize the fact that ethics is a continuous process. Then there must be an ethic program in place preferably written down and this should accomplish the best work place behavior. The next step in ethical standards is to avoid any unethical behaviors in the first place at the workplace and make ethical decisions made known to all as and where it is deemed appropriate. Then there should be integration of ethical practice and management practice of the organization. The value of forgiveness must be adorned by the owners and see that small mistakes or unintentional ones are allowed to go free while giving proper training to the workers.
Here, in the case of U Café the karaoke bar must motivate people keeping to its ethical standards for singing and dancing sessions. In fact, the people from the public who have some inclinations of dancing or singing or both should be able to do so with a good degree of comfortableness. Under no circumstances should the owners of U Café allow unethical standards to seep in knowingly or unknowingly like crude half naked dances, bullying, and rowdiness of behavior especially to the weaker sex. Similar too is the case with the adjoining internet café where apart from keeping to the ethical standards of the café like maintaining silence, allowing only good behaviors, correctly following the standards of the internet café from the general public point of view, properly following the intellectual property laws and installing non pirated software for games and other entertainments.
The Internal Environment
The internal environment of an organization comprises of its resource strengths, behaviors, capabilities and core competencies. In fact, it is through this knowledge of the resource based internal environment that the strategies of an organization are formulated. The organization’s resources are the physical resources and the human resources put to use in an efficient manner to create goods or services. In case of U Café the physical resources are the space where the internet cum karaoke bar is situated, the finance, the computers and the cable connection, the bar with its furnishing and the workers. These are the tangible resources of an organization and the intangible ones are those that are equally important yet cannot be immediately perceived but contribute significantly to the growth of the business. For the U Café this is in the form of goodwill that it would generate in the long run, the uniqueness of its location and the special appeal it would have on the local population. Apart from this are its skilled and experienced computer technicians or audio visual specialists as well as highly skilled and energetic bar employees and servers who display an unusual knack of greeting and satisfying customers. These are the inherent strengths of the business and these must be utilized properly in order to get the maximum gain in the long run. Here, the organizational behavior has to be molded in such a way due to the result of influences and forces operating within the internal environment that it gives added value to the end customers.
In its combined form the U Café would begin to prove quite a crowd puller given its situation where it achieves synergistic advantage. This means that its parts including the internet services, gaming section, bar, kitchen, karaoke performances and servers would exhibit greater performance as a whole. In other words, the sum of its parts would be seen as greater than the whole. Here again, the owners on their part should be able to project the two in one concept, namely the internet and the karaoke bar as something quite different from the competitors to have an edge in the market. The U Café could initiate functional strategies which include strategic marketing like sending mail to regular customers, strategic financial management, strategic operation, strategic human resources management and strategic information management. These internal functions could make it a hot spot for customers who would think it as an experience in itself due to the near perfection which all these functions unite to bring in the best results.
The culture of an organization is defined as a system exhibited by the business over a course of time which sets for itself certain values, beliefs and assumption among its employees and the leaders and helps an independent observer identify the same as the character of the organization. The organization in fact makes all the stakeholders aware of its distinct traits such that they can identify the organization from a crowd of others. U Café too should in due course of time with its proper conduct and exemplary service and above all its highly enthusiastic and motivated workforce exhibit a positive culture for the future growth and profitability of the business. This should be ingrained in every function which the internet and the karaoke bar involves in and the owners, managers and the employees should think and work as if it is there work life. It is seen that organizations exhibit negative, mildly negative, mildly positive and very positive behaviors that becomes their culture through which they are identified with. Hence, it is very important for U Café too pave way for good positive culture by accepting feedbacks both from the different functional areas of the internet and the karaoke bar as well as from its valued customers in order to make it distinct in style and excellent and unique service qualities. If the work culture of U Café is a work life experience then the employee on their part would undoubtedly show remarkable confidence and raise their own level of productivity. Culture as part of the organization would sooner or later define what a competent employee is (Leme, 2009). It has been noted that the staff as well as the outsiders perceive the culture of a business in the way the employees behave among one another, coordination levels between different functional area, respect for customers, leaders perception of the right ethical standards and giving incentives to the employees. Apart from this the culture is seen even in the settings of the business, the overall notion among the public, arrangements of the furniture, general hygiene, waste management and environment protection.
Strategy and Structure
Forming a good strategy is the prerequisite of all business. Due to nature of competition and the price wars as well as need to be a distinctive business in itself the owners must have a good strategy in place. This only would give the business like the U Café a competitive advantage over its rivals. The internet café must have certain aspects that give it a different look in the minds of the people and the fusion between the internet and karaoke bar must be so made that the customers are equally comfortable at both these places. Again, if need be they can also have their own quiet corner too. This means that to a large extent the U Café’s strategy is also bound by the environment which again means that the structure shapes the strategy. For instance, the environment should show inclination for the fusion between the internet café and the karaoke bar otherwise the strategic option may misfire. Therefore, keeping in tune with the right approach, the structural conditions, resources and capabilities and the mind-set of the owners the business like the U Café can succeed. Here, in this instance the U Café has the source of $50,000 each by the partners, the expertise from the experienced bar staff and the internet and experienced computer technicians and audio visual specialists who have the capability of bringing out a viable competitive position that should form the strategy of the business. In fact, it is generally seen that the structure should always reflect a good strategy.
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