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Entry and Contracting 1

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Entry and contracting are two terms that are often used to describe the process that consultants conduct as they start to explore a client’s system. Generally it means that you find a point at which to “enter” the system, usually with a contact client. The “contracting” is what happens when you meet, often about building some agreement to procede. My purpose in this short blog isn’t to highlight all the pitfalls that can happen on the way to agreement, but to outline a couple of useful framing questions that can assist people (I’m calling consultants people as well) to get off to an adequate start. It also helps to give you a reference point in the first conversation as well as later on down the track when you’ve perhaps met several times and are involved in the work that you’ve agreed to do -  after all, how you start can be a pointer to how you finish. I can usually track back problems I’ve encountered during an assignment with a client to the contracting I did early on. Some rules of thumb as you engage the client system. You’ll be involved in a number of triangulated relationships. The contact client is not always or even sometimes the client you’ll be working with. Someone else may have authority for the work to procede, so knowing the sources of power in the system is both a useful diagnostic inquiry and helps you navigate the system.

  • be aware of your own phenomenology (and the client’s) – it helps to know thyself.
  • watch how you manage your allegiances – you never know who knows what in the system
  • negotiate a vehicle for ‘truth-telling’ – early ! – remember the people you are talking to probably know where the bodies are buried

Bell and Madler have suggested 5 useful questions to frame your engagement as you enter and contract with the client. They are:

  1. Who are you (both you and the client)
  2. Why are you here?
  3. What’s likely to happen?
  4. How will you procede? and
  5. How will you add value?

I’ll elaborate more on these in the next posting. Go well

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