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The Contracting and Entry Phase

Entering and Contracting

This initial phase is a necessary part of every OD project, although the process and formality vary considerably, depending on the situation. These initial steps involve a preliminary exploration of the organization’s problems and issues, plus developing a collaborative relationship between the OD Practitioner and key members of the client organization regarding how to work on those issues.

Entering and contracting are quite different for an external consultant who is completely new to the organization than for a consultant who is internal or has a previous history with the organization. There are both advantages and disadvantages to being an internal or external OD Practitioner. In major projects, it often is useful to involve both in a team.


Some of the issues in almost all cases are:

  • What is the presenting problem and how do you honor this while determining what are the real organizational problems and issues? How do you deal with a predetermined diagnosis and specified “solution” which may not be what is needed?
  • Who is the client and how do you deal with the multiplicity of stakeholders?
  • How much readiness for change is present and how can a satisfactory degree be developed?
  • Dealing with confidentiality vs. the need to surface important issues that may have been undiscussible
  • Trust – building and maintaining it
  • Consultant expertise and role
  • Ethical and value system conflicts

Contracting involves both the mechanical/legal/financial arrangements, but also psychological contracting [developing a common understanding with commitment and comfort between the consultant and the primary client(s)]. Contracting should include developing shared clarity about:

  • Goals for and scope of the consulting project
  • Anticipated results and mutual expectations
  • Operating ground rules
  • Role of the consultant
  • Responsibilities of both consultant and client
  • Point of contact (who in the organization makes decisions about the project and is the primary interface for the consultant)
  • Schedule
  • Resources, fees, and arrangements for payment
  • Termination procedures

Some potential “red flags” in the consultant-client relationship that may arise during entry and contracting include:

  • Insufficient or ambiguous level of commitment to change
  • Resistance or opposition by major stakeholders
  • Major clients lack power to influence change or manage the boundaries to allow change within their organization
  • Client’s desire to manipulate the consultant or use the consultant in ways that violate the latter’s ethical framework