It Starts With A Conversation
We begin together with a series of matching conversations to determine your needs and whether this is a good fit for your organization and mine. Both sides of the potential relationship need to feel reasonably comfortable to "hang out" professionally and do the work. Sometimes having multiple contacts pays off in order to get the "going in" right for both parties. There is never a charge for these matching conversations — they are our mutual investment.
Once the match looks like "Yes!" a written proposal is generated (sample available upon request). It contains your goals, the anticipated start and end dates, the organization's project sponsor(s), the goals, methods, logistics, risks, evaluation, the value of the work to the organization, pricing, and terms. Once it is accepted the scheduling of service delivery begins in earnest, including the co-drafting and distribution of an internal announcement memo, so that all relevant stakeholders have a clear understanding of the project from the beginning.
Since each organization has its unique elements, and the so-called "presenting problem" might have multiple factors, a cultural assessment process is conducted. First, I generate data and observations through active listening and skillful interviewing that includes structured questions, spontaneous inquiries, and “business intuition” to obtain information and experiences from a wide variety of personality styles and communication abilities. Next, the results are synthesized and reported – privately first to the owners or leaders, and then in a generalized form to all relevant employees. It is important to note that staff interviews are conducted with "blended confidentiality" — individual comments are not identified. The feedback is woven together in a paraphrased fashion so that team members feel that they can be open.
Typically, the assessment process will create a number of recommendations that form the basis for a clear agreement (as a separate defined proposal) to begin management, behavioral, and cultural change. This is the "heart" of the improvement process, and involves a combination of the direct application of our consulting, facilitation, and coaching skills. While it is important to create a work plan with reasonable levels of detail, it is my consistent experience over time that there is a certain amount of "unfolding" that happens once the project begins, much like the remodeling of a house can uncover additional structural needs. In most cases, specific managerial behaviors and group norms are observed, identified, and supported or challenged as appropriate.
By creating a "deep container" of trust, individual professional growth is accelerated through both supporting and challenging clients. Drawing on observed and reported examples, executives increase their awareness, develop new options, practice implementation, and measure impact. By consistently working towards improved patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, greater results are achieved.
A large-scale change project will generally require a regular on-site presence weekly to bi-weekly for the first six months, tapering to once to twice a month in the later stages, although each project develops its own needs and timetables. Key executives have unlimited phone and e-mail access (because they're too busy to abuse the privilege!). Structured and on-going evaluations are held, and feedback in the spirit of mutual accountability is always encouraged. Every effort is made to accommodate the workplace variables that exist — travel to multiple locations, on-site meetings late at night or early in the morning (in a three-shift environment, for example). The goal is for Business Culture Consultants to be a "temporary business partner" and do what is required, with clear boundaries, to achieve the stated project goals.
One reason why millions of organizational dollars are wasted on training programs is the lack of focused follow-through. We've all come out of an excellent workshop saying to ourselves, "Yes, I'm going to incorporate this material into my professional life!" only to experience an astounding evaporation factor over the weeks and months that follow. Generally speaking, I ask my clients and their organizations to make a commitment of one year — not because it takes that long to create change, but to insure that individuals and teams do not fall back into old patterns.
- Fees are structured by the project not in a traditional (and usually uncomfortable) hourly basis. The fee is based on the value received, not the time spent, so there is no worry about incurring additional charges for picking up the phone or scheduling an extra meeting. We both do what it takes to meet the stated goals.
- Fees include all direct expenses: meetings, communication, phone calls, e-mail, faxes, preparation, presentation, reports, materials, travel (except as noted below), and supplies. No supplemental or ancillary billings unless there is mutual agreement that the project scope or mission needs to change from the original proposal.
- Primary travel expenses of air fare, hotel, and ground transportation for travel beyond reasonable driving distance can be billed at cost or included in the overall pricing. Treatment of travel expenses will be discussed up front and included in the written proposal.
- The payment schedule is clear and negotiated in advance — we each know how invoices will be generated, when payment is expected, and how payments are to be made.
- Negotiations over timing of payment can be opened in consideration of an organization's cash flow difficulties as long as advance discussions are held. There are times when it makes sense to go ahead and provide or continue services even though "out-of-the-box" payment terms need to be arranged, in light of specialized situations.
Generally speaking, I can discuss the possibility of a project over a period of weeks or months to make sure the timing project launch is right. Once we decide to proceed, a cultural assessment usually takes three to six weeks. After this has been reviewed and accepted, a Phase II proposal is created and delivered. Typically I work with organizations for a minimum of twelve months after the conclusion of the assessment phase, because my experience (and that of our clients) is that it takes a minimum of a a year to fully intergrate, implement, and sustain the pattern changes.
Fee at Risk
Ethically I cannot be a consultant or coach who accepts ongoing compensation if we are not getting results. If, after a period of several months of good-faith effort on both myself and my client it appears that there may be factors keeping us from succeeding, we should both examine those and see if they can be corrected. If the client determines that they do not want to go forward, then they are released from future financial obligations. Conversely, if my experience is that the client is not fully showing up, or keeping project commitments, or doing their work then I reserve the right to resign, settle up for expenses, and leave the balance of the contract behind.
It is important that individuals and organizations understand how confidentiality works in the process of coaching, consulting, and facilitation. Absolute confidentiality means that no one is even aware that any conversations have taken place, and that is not practical. On a corporate level, I pledge not to disclose to outside parties specific information about internal challenges, strategic plans, financial data, etc. I'm always very willing to sign official non-disclosure agreements. When working with individuals, the information they share with me needs to be "woven together" in terms of my knowledge of the culture, however I pledge to not make any direct negative attributions ("Do you what Betty just told me?"), nor will I share information of a personal nature. We always discuss confidentiality at the outset and whenever needed.