Higher education consultants demonstrate strategic planning exercisesWe don’t like the term ‘consultants’, it recently has become a dirty word.Think of us as Agents of Change; catalysts to help bring your organization, division, or institution to the next level to best serve students, global learners in this fast-paced, crazy world.

Why Engage Consultants in Higher Education?

  • Need for an objective, external, non-institutional view: limitations of internal data-gathering, analysis, and interpretation; difficulty seeing things objectively when one is in the middle of them; restraints that history and relationships within the institution create on asking or answering difficult questions.
  • Desire to create an opportunity for reflection and longer-term thinking: need to shift focus from tactics to strategy; challenging the “tyranny of the immediate.”
  • Need to reassess or rework a persistent or difficult problem: engage a process of discovery facilitated by friendly critics; see something through a different lens; question the “conventional wisdom.”
  • Intent to seek external validity: take advantage of specific expertise of consultants who have broad experience in higher education.
  • Intent to motivate and plan institutional change: use objective, evidence-based assessment to guide goal-setting and change management planning; work on change as a specific goal and process.
  • Need to review institutional effectiveness: assessing the alignment among mission, strategy, goals, programs, outcomes, and resources; determining whether the allocation of resources matches institutional priorities; evaluating the clarity and integrity of a focus on learning.
  • Opportunity for improvement: review and renewal of programs, services, departments, divisions.

Sources of Frustration in Consulting Projects

  • Pre-determined purposes masquerading as a consulting project: especially, organizational reviews used to justify or support already-intended personnel actions.
  • Check it off the list: projects completed primarily for show, or to say it was done — without serious interest in the findings or outcomes.
  • Internal warfare: consultants recruited to take sides.
  • Right project/wrong people, or right people/wrong project: selection of consultants goes awry — missed opportunity to assess their competency, experience, stance, and principles.
  • Timeframe terror: thought-requiring process jammed into a tactical framework with a very limited timeline.
  • Lack of serious intent: limited possibility of change results in very little engagement with project.
  • The truth may set you more free than you wanted to be: limited tolerance for negative findings.

Top 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Consultant

  1. Competency: Do you know how to do this?
  2. Experience: Have you done this before?
  3. Results: What happened when you did this elsewhere?
  4. Capacity: What resources will you devote to us?
  5. Deliverables: What will we have in our hands after you have finished?
  6. Team: Who will actually work on our project?
  7. Philosophy and Approach: How do you work with clients?
  8. Stance: What is your stance on your relationship to the institution? (K&A uses the stance of a friendly critic.)
  9. Risk factors: What could go wrong? How will you prevent that?
  10. Outcome: What do you want us to say about the work you did with us when it’s finished?

Keeling & Associates, LLC is a comprehensive higher education consulting and professional services firm that creates “change for learning.” K&A has helped higher education institutions create and execute risk management and campus reopening plans during global pandemics. Let’s work together to create change for learning.