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Berkeley's Project Engagement Approach

There are a number of principles or ingredients that the Berkeley Consulting Group tries to build into all projects. First, all projects need to focus on accomplishing measurable results. Second, facilitation is a part of most projects if commitment to implementation is desired, which is typically a necessary objective. Last but not least, promoting high client satisfaction and quality deliverables.

Consulting Projects Focus on Creating Measurable Results

For us, most consulting projects in the strategic management and change planning fields involve defining tangible action plans as a final step. The question is, "how do we implement this"? For us, most assessment and planning projects are about building a business case for investing funds and taking action:

  • Results are typically about delivering value – improved customer service or reduced cost.
  • Measuring specific results or outcomes is possible and necessary.
    Operational plans can be linked to producing the measured results more clearly.
  • Proof or evidence of the feasibility and likely success of the proposal are required to make the business case – resources should be invested to produce value-added.

Berkeley has assisted clients build business cases and plans for such needs as, expanding programs, or building a shared services unit, among others. In these projects, we use our outcome management and results measurement know-how to good advantage.

Client and Stakeholder Commitment Comes from
Effective Facilitation

The Berkeley Consulting Group sees consultation and facilitation as a key ingredient in almost every assignment. Our consultants have facilitated many forms of meetings, retreats and workshops – strategic planning, governance, organization structure, quality assurance programs, team problem solving, and culture and values development, among others. The Berkeley Consulting Group has also led a number of complex facilitation projects where stakeholder groups needed to be deeply involved in the process and numerous facilitation events were held.

The approach to facilitating meetings and workshops varies depending on the objectives, situation, and participants. The straightforward facilitation requirement is simple enough. First, do some preparation in terms of clarifying objectives, understanding the situation and relationships of participants, then formulate an agenda and prepare a set of guidelines for participant behaviour. With that in hand, the facilitation role at the meeting itself is essentially to clarify objectives and ground-rules for discussion, chair the discussions, record the conclusions and confirm people’s agreement to them and next steps.

In some circumstances, facilitation requires a more involved process. Typically, when participants come from different organizations and the deliverable is more complex – a business or organizational plan – the facilitation requires more extensive preparation and involvement by the facilitator.

For complex assignments, the role of the facilitator can go beyond chairing the meeting. There are a number of roles the consultants can play in supporting a group in these situations.

  • Process Design Advice – The consultants can help the group develop the design of the process.
  • Gathering Input and Analysis – The facilitator can gather information, conduct sessions with stakeholder groups, undertake research and literature searches. The consultants can also summarize the findings and conclusions into main messages about issues and alternatives.
  • Create Scenarios and Alternative Futures – If appropriate, the consultant can do some thinking to 'fast-track' the process by creating potential alternatives that are based on the input process.
  • Facilitating the Process to Find Common Ground – Naturally the consultant will facilitate and lead the meetings and workshops to find common ground. In providing this support, we often propose having one consultant play a ‘content’ role and another lead the process. This provides a team approach that ensures the constructive and necessary conflicts are managed and addressed.
  • Conclusions Documentation – In the end, a document of conclusions is usually needed. The consultants can develop this document based on the group’s decisions and consensus during the process.

In some situations, our experience suggests that a two-person team of consultants should undertake the facilitation process.

One ‘Expert’ Creating Options, and Suggests Solutions – One consultant gathers information and acts as the content expert – creates options for the group to consider. During the course of the meetings, this person challenges and provides ideas about solutions. Part of this role comes from being a third party – a devil’s advocate. This person challenges the group to develop a sound and rational answer, not an ill-fated compromise that flies in the face of certain realities that members are not recognizing adequately.

‘Facilitator’ Helps the Parties Find the Common Ground – The second consultant needs to help the group get to ‘yes’. The ultimate product is an agreement about how the various participants can become partners for certain purposes. Therefore, the representatives need to reach an agreement about the shared purpose, and how to resolve the issue or define the plan. The facilitator remains neutral regarding the specifics of the outcome.

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Ensuring Project Success

Berkeley has a number of key aspects that it builds into most assignments to promote high client satisfaction and quality deliverables.

Clearly communicated project timetables – Berkeley requires a clear project timetable, which is well communicated among participants. These are normally included in consultation and interview materials submitted in advance.
Structured approaches to consultation and workshops – Berkeley ensures that informants know what information we want and find out in advance to ensure people’s time and effort are respected. We distribute structured discussion guides to interviewees. Before major workshop meetings, we provide workshops guides that outline the materials presented and the discussion topics for the workshop as a basis for participants to understand the logic and intent of the workshop.
Teamwork and Peer Review – On most assignments, there is at least an element of teamwork among a few consultants or with the Berkeley office. Sharing ideas and preliminary findings builds in learning and quality control. Team members critique the materials and conclusions as peers but this is an important control point to ensure good thinking is done.
Berkeley’s support team coordinates all projects and vet documents – All Berkeley assignments are coordinated by our experienced support team. This ensures that the Berkeley Consulting Group is on top of the timing of projects and the quality of interim reports. It makes the quality of documentation consistent.
Track Record of work supported by contracts with associates – There are clear relationships among members of the consulting teams Berkeley manages. Those are built over time since most associates have worked with Berkeley over many years. However, as a matter of sound administration, contracts exist with all associates and each is updated when new projects are started. Each supplement or update includes clear roles and expectations from members of the team.

Reader's Corner

For some of our thinking and approaches to client assignments, feel free to browse our Reader's Corner  

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