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What You Need to Know About Question-Based Consulting

by David Swain

‘Process consulting’ is a question-based approach where a consultant will work one-on-one with their client to develop strategic, targeted solutions. In my opinion, it is the most effective way to create lasting strategies because it ensures that the client drives the changes, not the consultant.

Now, a consultant will not likely refer to himself/herself as a “process consultant”, but you can use the checklist below to know if he/she is utilizing this approach.

A ‘process consultant’ will use insightful questions to:

  • Help clients establish clear objectives and goals
  • Investigate what solutions have been implemented in the past and why they were or were not successful
  • Generate conversation around possible next steps
  • Bring to light various perspectives and unique angles to the problems at hand
  • Look at issues – and solutions –  holistically
  • Finish conservations with actionable steps

Ultimately, a process consultant is not there to tell a client what to do; they’re there to guide the client through his/her own discovery process.
Consider, for example, a difficult math equation. There are two options; the first is to have an expert tell you the answer. The second is to have someone show you the steps to figure out the problem yourself. The quickest solution in this case is probably option number one, but should another problem come along of equal difficulty, you will need to reach out for help again. The most cost effective solution is definitely number two; but it takes an upfront investment of time and effort. Once you have the know-how to do it yourself though, you will be self-reliant in solving similar problems down the road.

Believe it or not, as a consultant employing this approach, I know that I have been successful when I am not hired to return to work on the same problem. If I’ve done my job well, it won’t be needed. With clients being involved in the solution development process, they are (or should be) equipped with the skills and know-how to implement solutions that will serve the organization as a whole, for a long time.



David SwainDavid Swain, BSc Mgmt., MSOD, CEC, PCC with over 30 years’ experience in both coaching the leaders of large organizations and leading them himself.




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