It is sometimes easy to forget that clients are people too with their own personal needs and drives. This may sound dumb, after all we all know this. But failure to recognise this simple fact is a major cause of failure in consulting assignments.
The client-professional relationship is first and foremost a professional relationship. As professionals, we are hired to do a particular job in the best way that we can. Our formal client is usually an organisation, the person or people we deal with represent the organisation.
In all this, we forget the personal element at our peril.
The people that we deal with have their own personalities that affect the way we interact with them, as well as the way that they interpret our advice. We have to take this into account in the way we phrase things, in the processes that we follow in managing the assignment.
We also need to recognise and understand internal structures and relations within the organisations since these affect both decision processes and the people we deal with directly. While this, too, may seem self-evident, it is remarkable how often a simple question to consultants reveals that they do not in fact know anything about internal decision processes and structures affecting the assignment and the individuals they are dealing with.
This does not usually matter with straight forward assignments, although it may affect chances of getting follow up work since this can depend upon broader and positive exposure within the organisation.
However, it can matter greatly where the assignment links directly or indirectly to sensitive internal strategic or political issues that the consultant is simply unaware of. Here disaster may follow.
Knowledge of internal workings may not prevent this. However, it does increase your chances of at least identifying and managing the problem.