What do all consulting projects have in common? They all involve the management of change, according to Mick Cope. “Although many consultants might suggest that they ‘advise, analyze, counsel, investigate, or support,’” he says, “unless something changes, then what value have they added?”

Cope is a veteran U.K. business-transformation consultant and author of Leading the Organisation to Learn (Pittman Publishing Ltd., 1998). In his latest book, The Seven Cs of Consulting (Financial Times Management, 2000), he offers a comprehensive methodology for managing the change process. It’s general enough to be useful for many different types of consultants, but it’s also detailed enough to help you throughout every stage of a project—from establishing objectives and working with difficult people to completing the project and helping the client consider what has been learned “over and above the planned outcomes.”

By Mick CopeFinancial Times Management, April 2000ISBN: 0-273-64511-0
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A concentration of ideas
Cope freely admits that The Seven Cs is not a page-turner. He notes that “although some people might choose to read this book from cover to cover, the concentration of ideas and tools could make it a long read.” He also points out that he wrote the book “to help consultants navigate the change process, not to introduce a new discipline. I recommend you use it as a companion or compendium, a guide that can help you to move forward when plans are being developed or problems encountered.”

Although he provides a few introductory chapters—one of which includes a useful approach to building an effective client relationship—the bulk of the book consists of explanations of the Seven Cs, which include:

  1. Client—getting it right from the start. “The whole consulting process begins and ends with the client,” Cope writes. “And it is imperative you apply sufficient time and energy to understanding the person as well as the problem.” Cope helps the reader consider several aspects of working with clients. At the end of each section, he asks a “back pocket question” that should be considered during a project, such as, “Am I able to view the problem as the client sees it?” All the questions are printed on a Seven Cs “pocket guide” that you can tear out of the book and take with you to assignments.
  2. Clarify—understanding the real issues. Cope quotes Claude Levi-Strauss: “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers; he poses the right questions.” According to Cope, one of the right questions is, “Have I gathered information that will determine the real source of the issue and not just the symptoms?
  3. Create—developing a deliverable solution. Back-pocket questions for this C include “Have I ensured that any creative solutions can actually be delivered?” and “Have I understood the potential creative blockages for my client?”
  4. Change—working to make things happen. Typical questions are “Do I know how people can be encouraged to be involved in the transformation process?” and “Do I know how people will react to proposed changes?”
  5. Confirm—measuring the change. “Is the relationship between qualitative and quantitative measures clear to me?”
  6. Continue—making sure the solution sticks. “Have I ensured that a bureaucratic system will not strangle the transformation?”
  7. Close—signing off with style. “Is there a clear indication of a tangible improvement to the operational or commercial viability of the organization?” “Have I identified what opportunities exist for further work?”

Thumbs up
Although the seven Cs cover assignments from beginning to end, Cope says “it is a rare consultancy project that would follow such a structured path. Consulting projects are like life—they are unpredictable and will throw up new and different surprises around every bend. The stages (of the seven Cs model) are symbolic rather than prescriptive, offering different actions and viewpoints to be applied depending on the needs of the client, consumer, and consultant.”

In the book’s final chapter, “The Reality,” Cope offers tips for making his theories work in the real world. An appendix presents the key components of the seven Cs model as a checklist.

Cope’s pragmatic approach and detailed methodologies are a winning combination. I recommend The Seven Cs of Consulting for both new and experienced consultants looking for an effective guide to delivering measurable results on any assignment.

Thomas Pack is a freelance technology reporter.

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