Engaging a strategy consultant is per se high stakes. Looking across your organization and its work to find and describe the most effective path forward can be exhilarating. It can also be unsettling as "outsiders" review, question, assess, and opine on the state of your enterprise. In fact, the best strategy processes are both exhilarating and unsettling.

It goes without saying that all strategy processes should inspire and motivate staff and board, challenging these and other key participants to question assumptions and explore opportunities. Taking advantage of the process of engaging strategy experts to accomplish some skill transfer to internal staff is an added plus. But a strategy process worth the effort and investment should provide more than a boost for morale or a training exercise.

Getting started with strategy work can be complicated by the fact that strategy consultants are a diverse group. Individuals and firms differ -- sometimes wildly -- from each other in terms of skills and approach. What then is the best way to start this journey? How can you find and work well with the "right" strategy consultant?

There are at least four distinct purposes for strategy work, each of which suggest a different approach. Identifying the right approach to meeting your needs will depend on whether the reason for doing strategy work is occasioned by internal needs or external shifts in the context for the work of your organization, and on whether the audience for the new strategy is mostly internal or mostly external.