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‘The External Consultancy Toolkit’ by Arthur Proud


The External Consultancy Toolkit: Your complete guide to finding, briefing and evaluating external consultants
by Arthur Proud
Fenman, 1999
A4 ringbinder, £195.
ISBN 1 872483 84 4

Organizations are relying more and more on engaging external consultants to satisfy their training and development needs, and in recent years more and more external consultants have offered up their services – some excellent, some satisfactory, and, hopefully few bad risks.

This collection of resources is mainly aimed at the people responsible for contracting consultants either because the organization does not have the expertise internally, or there is not the time or resource for internal operation. The resources are aimed at leading the contractor to making an effective engagement. But a substantial number of the resources are concerned with the consultants view as to what they want and how they should go about achieving it.

The Toolkit is in two Parts, Part 1 being described as being concerned with the training process itself. It starts however, with a ‘Client Interview Checklist’ and other action the consultant should take when first approached by the potential client. A large number of appropriate questions are included, in addition to consideration of reactions to the clients wishes. The Part then continues with consideration of aims and objectives; a training specification; a client/consultant design meeting; working with the consultant to agree training methods and content, both global and session specific; invitations to the course; and aspects of validation and review. My experience as a consultant has been principally the reverse – I have been asked to submit proposals which are then discussed and agreed or otherwise.

Although the material is clear in itself when studied carefully, and because the Part is titled ’The Training Process and Working with your in-house client’, I found the structure and approach difficult to follow as it combined, in a not too clear way, the actions and points of view of both the external consultant and the client – a conflict with the Part title.

This confusion for me was repeated in Part 2 ‘Dealing with Your Consultant’ which again combines both the consultant and the client and repeats a lot of the material from Part 1. I feel that much of what the sections describe as what the client should be considering, should really be part of the consultant’s proposals.

The feeling I had was that the author was trying to cover completely both aspects, but muddied the issues by trying to do these simultaneously. I may be missing something, but I cannot recommend this work to either consultants or clients, regretting that is could have been such a useful work if the concentration had been on one aspect or the other.

Leslie Rae
November 1999


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