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How Contracting for Results Works in Organization Development

Contracting is the initial phase of every OD project. It sets mutual expectations for agreeing on the OD intervention at hand.  The contract must involve the client, who has the decision-making authority to see it through.  The contract is a necessary phase for both internal and external OD practitioners because contract discussions often surface issues that need to be resolved.

The OD process of contracting for mutual satisfaction is core to the process of effective organization development.  Many problems in life result from poor contracting.  Getting clear expectations and guidelines established at the beginning of a relationship will allow that relationship a better chance of success and survival.
 
Three major steps to the initial client meeting: 

1. Understanding the problem and exchanging wants,
2. closing the meeting by checking on client concerns and commitment, and
3. gaining agreement when the conversation becomes difficult.

Here are some question you need to prepare for ahead of time:

1)    What do you want from the client?  What do you need?  What do you desire?
2)    What are you offering the client? Personally, professionally, technically?
3)    What does the client want? List possibilities:
4)    Who is going to be in the room and can they make the decision?  Who’s missing?  What are their roles, Who will benefit by this project?
5)    What resistance do you anticipate?
6)    What conditions would you not proceed?

How to Contract:

Before meeting with the client ask these questions:

1.    Ask these questions before meeting with the client:
2.    What do you want to discuss?
3.    Who is the client for the project?
4.    Who else will be at the meeting?
5.    How much time do we have?
6.    Do you have a project or is this an exploratory meeting?

Here are some factors that may be considered in the contracting phase:

Problem/Needs
·        What event(s) led to the conclusion that a change effort is needed?
·        What are the client’s needs?

Client Support
·        Could the client change priorities as the project progresses?
·        Does the client support the change effort?
·        Who will be involved? When?

Objectives
·        What end result(s) or trends are the client looking for?

Consultant/Client Roles 
·        What are the responsibilities, tasks, authorities, accountabilities, and level of commitment on your part and that of the client?
·        How will we know if we are not working together effectively?
·        Defining team member roles includes task roles and process roles.

Results Measurement
·        What will indicate to the client that progress toward the objectives is being made?
·        How will these indicators be measured?
·        What are the deadlines?

Terms
·        What are the cost, budget, and payment schedule?
·        What is the schedule for work to be performed?

Commitment
·        How important is this project to the client?
·        Have the client and consultant committed the needed resources?

Follow-Through and Termination
·        When will the contract end?
·        Under what conditions can it be terminated or delayed?

Conducting the Contracting Discussion:

When you meet with the client to identify their need and begin the contracting, first identify who is the client and who owns the problem.

1.    Meet the client and establish rapport.
2.    Ask the client to explain the problem situation.
3.    Communicate your understanding of the problem
4.    Acknowledge the unique aspects of their situation
5.    State the problem you think the client has
6.    Reassure the manager that you can help find the right solution and you can help
7.    State what the clients wants from the project and what he or she wants from you
8.    Surface any constraints.
9.    Confirm what you the consultant wants and offers
10.  Explain how you will work with them
11.  Restate actions that need to be taken
12.  Seek agreement to confirm what they want and what you want
13.  Ask for feedback and commitment
14.  Close for next steps

Overcoming resistance to contracting

·         Explore with the client directly about their reservations
·         If the client resists your offer, go back to the problem situation and restate the problem
·         Identify the resistance and offer solutions
·         Identify obstacles and remove the obstacles
·         Identify the real reasons for not moving forward – motivation, time, money

Debriefing the contracting

1)    How well did you handle the contracting conversation?
2)    What resistance did the client demonstrate?
3)    What reservations do you have about the client? Contract?
4)    Did the client have concerns?
5)    What would you do differently next time?

When you follow these steps you should be able to develop an effective contract that will enable you to handle issues or problems more effectively if they are arise during the course of your consulting project.
 
References:

Peter Block, Flawless Consulting, A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, 1981, University Associates.

About the author:

Nancy Zentis is a leading professional in the field of OD, with more than 30 years’ experience as a consulting working with multinational organizations. She is the founder and CEO of Institute of OD, providing OD Certification Programs. She can be reached at nancy.zentis@instituteod.com. www.instituteod.com. 954-341-2522.