Trip to Hyderabad cont…….
Wow what an assignment! I must say that I have experienced similar assignments in the past in other sectors. However for this sector (development sector) it was a first. As a consultant you have to be on guard all the time when doing an Organization Capacity Assessment (Very similar to a “Due Diligence” in the private sector); if the client wants to mislead you, it can be done quite easily. In my case I was confronted with just that.
Things that should look out for are:
- Uniformity in questioners
- Having sets of files pre prepared for you (always ask for random files)
- When interviewing staff they have uniform answers or say very similar things (always ask to speak to random sample of staff and triangulate your findings; include speaking to other stakeholders as they will be a be useful source of information)
- Taking a long time to locate files and other documents when you request for them
- Key staff suddenly taking ill and not being available for interviews
- Acting “stupid” or not seem to understand what you are requesting for or saying
These things must be handled very diplomatically otherwise you will not be able to complete the assignment. Do not have a “knee jerk” reaction, observe very well and collect enough specific examples so that you have a basis for doubting what is presented to you. At the same time you must see if this deception is systematic or simply put up for this occasion.
If it is systemic you now have a real problem; you will not be able to decipher what is “genuine” and what is “false.” My recommendation is at this point you should seek clarifications from the person who hired you as well as speaking to the decision makers of your client. A temporary halt to the assessment will be in order to do this discretely. Suggest you take prudent steps based on your clients feedback.
However if you feel it is a put up for this particular assessment then your task is easier and it should be handled with the management of the organization that you are assessing. (Don’t forget you still need to advice your client regarding this unexpected turn of events) As this would be difficult situation for some consultants to handle; I suggest a cautious but a very direct approach. This will reduce the space for excuses by the staff. Since it will come as a surprise to them the staff of the organization you are assessing will also not be able to gang up on you to defend themselves. Make sure that you do not engage in a long dragged out discussion, be short and to the point. If handled properly it should bring about normalcy to the process.
If however you do not feel comfortable to take a direct approach you must then document both versions of the process i.e.
- The results that are shown by the staff of the organization
- Your observations and reservation of those results
This however will not be very useful in the end; as it will not provide the right results to take decisions the assessment was supposed to deliver in the first place. In some rare cases you may need to repeat the assessment to get the right results.
In my case it was the latter and I did confront the staff and the management regarding it. There was an attempt to defend the position but it was not successful; things returned to an acceptable level of normalcy and I was able to complete the assignment.