Project Management

An Insider's Guide to Shopping for Consultants

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. Meaning that, like my peers, I'm for sale, for the right price. For sale to do what? And what's the right price? Well, that's the million dollar question (and further full disclosure: I'm usually much more cost effective than that).

My last article on this topic made the point that there are very different kinds of consultants: a pair of hands, someone to contract for an outcome and a trusted advisor. The point being that, while all validly considered “consultants”, you may get very different levels of service (requiring extremely varied levels of oversight) depending upon the kind of consultant that you need. Or, depending upon how you approach it, the kind of consultant that you wind up contracting for.

How you go about shopping for a consultant, however, is a critical issue. I have seen it done well, and I have seen it done poorly. Unfortunately, many more opt for doing it poorly rather than doing it well. This has the unfortunate impact of making the entire process more frustrating, time consuming, expensive and ineffectual for all parties, consultants and customers alike. In the fervent hope that some of this frustration can be minimized, I offer you the following: an insider's guide to how to go about shopping for a consultant.

Know what you want
The first challenge, and it is a big one, …

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I'm a great quitter. I come from a long line of quitters. I was raised to give up.

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