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Consulting Skills Update. Presenter: Alex Mackenzie, MA, MFT, CEAP Director, Health and Performance Solutions. September 24, 2007. Alex Mackenzie has worked for ValueOptions for four years as an Advisor, Account Manager, and HPS Director.

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September 24, 2007

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Consulting Skills Update

Presenter: Alex Mackenzie, MA, MFT, CEAP

Director, Health and Performance Solutions

September 24, 2007

presenter bio
Alex Mackenzie has worked for ValueOptions for four years as an Advisor, Account Manager, and HPS Director.

Prior to ValueOptions, Alex held positions as an HR Director, specializing in Organizational Effectiveness in a Fortune 100 Financial Services Firm, as a Senior Consultant for a large, international HR consulting firm; and Manager of Organizational Services for an internal Employee Assistance Program.

Little known fact: Alex’s first professional career was as a FORTRAN computer programmer

A fan of continuous learning, Alex has taught MBA and masters-level Organizational Psychology classes through UC Berkeley Extension, and Golden Gate University, and is coauthor of a textbook chapter on Group Therapy for Domestic Violence Offenders.

Alex is an avid reader, and a rabid skier.

Presenter Bio

Presentation Outline

  • Advantages of employing good consulting skills
  • Differences between consultant role versus vendor role
  • Consulting skill: contracting to solve a business problem Using SPIN approach
  • Consulting skill: Establishing needs

and mutual expectations

  • Additional Skills

Success based on pre-agreed measures

Part of a joint effort to produce results

Valued for impact on organization’s performance

Eyes and ears, provides honest feedback to the client




Unclear whether successful or not

Does all the work

Lacks access

Feels like a “hired gun”

Lacks buy-in

Often deploys the wrong “solution”



Advantages of Employing

Consulting Skills

good news bad news
Good News: Human factors interventions are among the most highly leveraged investments organizational leaders can choose.

Bad News: The perception is that human factors interventions and expenditures are “nice to have,” as opposed to key strategic contributions

Good News, Bad News

Your partnership can help your clients connect the dots,

articulating the contribution to the bottom line.

spin your way to problem solving partnership
Situation Questions

Problem Questions

Implication Questions

Need-Payoff Questions

SPIN Your way to Problem-solving Partnership

Concept by:

Neil Rackham





Increased commitment to:

Solution, partnership, relationship

The purpose of situation questions is to uncover problems or opportunities the client is experiencing from his/her point of view.

Do your homework first– consider alternative sources

Well-used situation questions help determine what problems/opportunities to pursue.

These questions build the relationship by conveying your interest in the client’s world

Examples of situation questions:

How is success or performance measured in your function/group?

What keeps you awake at night?

What is your vision for next year?

What measurements do you use?

What do your customers– internal and external value most?

What would people have to do to meet that goal?

What is changing?

What barriers do you see?

What is your team hitting home runs on, and what do they need to improve upon?

What is the impact of <technology, legal, market, strategic> changes?

How are you meeting those changes?

How do your numbers compare to <goals, the industry, last year>?

What have you tried so far?

Tell me about yourself and how this relates to your business and career goals

Situation Questions

Problem questions ask about difficulties, dissatisfactions, or barriers to opportunities within the situation you just learned about. The purpose of problem questions is to reveal implied needs, and build shared understanding.

Examples of Problem Questions:

How satisfied are you with_______

Are there specific areas you think could improve?

Are you worried about what will happen now that _____?

Where are breakdowns likely to occur?

Do you have the right people with the right skills?

Are you concerned about whether people will change fast enough?

How often does <this problem> arise?

How quickly do you need to respond?

How are the costs and schedule looking, compared to the plans?

I can see how that might be a problem for <function-1>, but how might it also effect <function-2>?



Problem Questions

Implication questions ask about consequences, effects, or impacts.

The purpose of asking is to

Focus on results

Link problems

Build motivation and commitment to mutual expectations

Prioritize to maximize the value you add!

Examples of Implication questions:

Could that development lead to greater risk of ________

How might that effect cost, quality, competitiveness, turnover?

What would growth look like with/without our intervention?

Could that lead to increased _______

Would that lead to higher/lower speed to___________

How does that effect your workload? Hours? Stress level? Career? How you’re seen?

Implication Questions



need payoff questions
Need-Payoff questions ask about value, importance, and usefulness of a solution. The purpose is to focus on the payoff, probe for explicit needs, and to get the client to tell you the benefits of the solution. You can see how this builds commitment and perceived value.

Examples of Need-Payoff Questions:

How much of a savings would this mean?

What other opportunities would this allow you to pursue that you can’t now?

How important is that?

Where would that put you relative to the competition?

How would that help provide the infrastructure for growth?

Need-Payoff Questions



case vignette
You are in an elevator, rapidly descending from the 34th floor, where you work as an EAP consultant in a financial services firm. With you is the Co-CEO. It is 1995, and the stock market is tanking, and cost cutting is the order of the day. You already know that the organization’s revenue comes from two places: Commissions on trades, and profit on investments held. Both are down due to stock market conditions. There is much concern about layoffs.

Situation Question_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Problem Question_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Implication Question_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Need Question_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Case Vignette
mutual expectations to meet the expressed need
Consultant will

Conduct further assessment

Deploy interventions including

training resources


health/wellness activities


Serve as an expert resource

Provide means of assessing results

Provide honest feedback

Client will

Provide access


Administer satisfaction surveys

Administer pre and post tests

Take additional measures

Preview and provide feedback on materials

Provide honest feedback

Mutual Expectations(To Meet the expressed need,…)
additional skills
In this session, we’ve identified and demonstrated a technique for gaining agreement and partnership


Action Planning

Facilitation (including telephonic/Webex)

Customization and selection of training content

Choosing a presenter

Measuring impact

Additional Skills
nuts and bolts providing subject matter expertise
Poor Employee Performance

Critical Incident Response

Drug Free Workplace Cases

Fitness for Duty

Employee Threat of Violence

Don’t be afraid to be directive

Act in concert with HR and company policy

Help manager focus by asking open ended questions

Remember to ask how the manager is doing

Nuts and Bolts:Providing Subject Matter Expertise
additional resources
Flawless Consulting by Peter Block

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham

Organization Development by William Rothwell

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook by Peter Senge

HPS Policy and Procedure

The Team Handbook by Peter Scholtes

Organizational Behavior, an Experiential Approach by David Kolb (or anything by Kolb, really)

On Organizational Learning by Chris Argyris (or anything by Argyris!)

See also, anything on Competencies on Lominger or DDIWORLD websites

Additional Resources