Project Management

Hiring a Consultant: What to Do, What Not to Do...and Why

Mark Mullaly is president of Interthink Consulting Incorporated, an organizational development and change firm specializing in the creation of effective organizational project management solutions. Since 1990, it has worked with companies throughout North America to develop, enhance and implement effective project management tools, processes, structures and capabilities. Mark was most recently co-lead investigator of the Value of Project Management research project sponsored by PMI. You can read more of his writing at

Full Disclosure: I am a consultant.

There are some that might react negatively to that statement, perhaps that even consider use of the word “consultant” akin to a four-letter word. I completely understand that sentiment. It is not undeserved, and there are consultants out there who make it awfully easy to be the subject of derision, mockery and social ostracism--who, by the way some approach their roles, you would think wanted to be lawyers. And yet consultants can play a useful and valued role in some organizations, in some circumstances, and to support specific outcomes. The issue is being clear about where--and why--consultants are effective and provide a relevant service.

It is arguably helpful to explore how consultants came into being, and what their intended role and purpose is. The word “consultant” entered the English language sometime in the 16th or 17th century, and derives from the Latin “consultare”. The word, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, implies “deliberating together” or “conferring”. This suggests a relatively collaborative approach, where a consultant does something with you rather than to you. So clearly, somewhere along the way, a few wires have gotten crossed.

Of course, there are a number of different models in terms of how consultants currently work. Some truly …

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"Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited while imagination embraces the entire world."

- Albert Einstein