Align Your Vision with Key Stakeholders – Think Like an Internal Consultant

“Internal consultants use expertise, influence, and personal skills to facilitate client-requested change without having the formal authority to implement the recommended actions. The change solves a problem; improves performance; and increases organizational effectiveness.” (From Consulting on the Inside: A Practical Guide for Internal Consultants)

If you are thinking, “Hey, that sounds like me, but I’m not called a consultant,” think again, because a portion of your job probably requires aspects of internal consulting.

One of the challenges of being an internal consultant is ensuring that your strategic vision matches that of your client, customer, manager, or team. If your visions are not aligned, no clear goals will be met. Read the scenario to find out how to craft a clear strategic vision.

The scenario: You have just presented an idea to a group of senior leaders who serve as sponsors for projects in your area. They expressed a great deal of enthusiasm. Once you moved forward with the idea, however, it became very clear that your vision and definition of the idea was completely different than that of your sponsors. What do you do?

Craft a strategic vision!

Night Lighthouse Beam

A clear vision helps sustain motivation during difficult times, and it enables you to communicate with stakeholders, sponsors, and/or resources to influence them to support you. Crafting a vision also helps identify and test operating assumptions about the situation.

Here are some discussion questions that can be useful in crafting an effective vision:
• What would success look like? Describe, in specific, concrete detail, how you would know that you have succeeded? What would be different? How would your “world” have changed? How would you and others feel about the change?
• Describe your impact as it is now and then the impact you would like to have if this project succeeds. (Do a “From/To” exercise.)
• What words best describe “impact” for you? Who would receive this impact? How would it change their lives?

It’s important to focus on “ends” and save “means” for another discussion. It’s important that you find a way to help your clients achieve the kind of impact that they want to have. You can try to influence them, but in the end the vision has to be theirs. It’s often difficult for clients to be concrete and specific about their vision of success. You can help them do that through effective questioning and listening. If you listen actively to the things that you think are especially important and key to success, this can be a subtle reinforcement for good, clear thinking on their part. Alternatively, you can help them to clarify by feeding back your educated guess about what they are getting at. If you’re off, they’ll tell you, if you’re somewhere near it, they may adopt your clarified view of what they’re looking to achieve.

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