Problem solving is the foundation of what management consultants do. Customers hire consultants to help overcome or eliminate obstacles that prevent them from achieving customer objectives, that is, to solve problems. Sometimes, a consultant's job involves “solving problems that haven't yet materialized.” McKinsey's problem solving process consists of a series of mindset changes and structured approaches to thinking about and solving challenging problems. It's a useful approach for anyone who works in the knowledge and information economy and needs to communicate ideas to others.
Recent research on the experience of consultants who specialize in organizational learning disciplines suggests that this frustration may stem from the contradictory and tacit assumptions that managers and consultants hold when they undertake an initiative together. The consultants were willing to gain experience by finding practical solutions to the client's immediate business problems. Four participants considered that ongoing conversations with their clients, which Juanita Brown and David Isaacs describe as a fundamental business process that contributes to learning, constitute an essential part of their consulting work. While the research focused on consultants, this finding has important implications for managers seeking to use consulting services.
We asked the consultants to analyze how they had carried out the critical phases of the consulting process with what they considered a particularly important client.