Management consultants like to leave behind something of lasting value.

This means not only enhancing clients’ ability to deal with immediate issues but also helping them learn methods needed to cope with future challenges. This does not imply that effective professionals work themselves out of a job. Satisfied clients will recommend them to others and will invite them back the next time there is a need.

Consultants facilitate learning by including members of the organization in the assignment’s processes. For example, demonstrating an appropriate technique or recommending a relevant book often accomplishes more than quietly performing a needed analysis. When the task requires a method outside the professional’s area of expertise, he or she may recommend other consultants or educational programs. However, some members of management may need to acquire complex skills that they can learn only through guided experience over time.

With strong client involvement in the entire process, there will be many opportunities to help members identify learning needs. Often a consultant can suggest or help design opportunities for learning about work-planning methods, task force assignments, goal-setting processes, and so on. Though the effective professional is concerned with executive learning throughout the engagement, it may be wise not to cite this as an explicit goal. Managers may not like the idea of being “taught to manage.” Too much talk about client learning comes across as presumptuous—and it is.

Learning during projects is a two-way street. In every engagement, consultants should learn how to be more effective in designing and conducting projects. Moreover, the professional’s willingness to learn can be contagious. In the best relationships, each party explores the experience with the other in order to learn more.