April 6, 2018


Managing consultants on think tank research projects

Raymond Struyk, author of Improving Think Tank Management, writes about how organisations can best manage individual consultants engaged to carry out major tasks largely independently, ranging from executing analytic tasks to being the sole author of major reports. To make the discussion more precise he uses a specific case: the think tank hires a consultant to write a report that is part of a larger project, and she will work nearly full time on the task for four months. His advice is based on two primary sources of hands-on experience. First, he consulted in detail with highly experienced research managers a three think tanks widely regarded as well-managed about their own practices and which tasks they view as the most critical in managing consultants. The managers provided copies of the contracts and forms their institutes use with consultants. These think tanks are: the Urban Institute, the Results for Development Institute, and the Institute for Urban Economics. The first two are large organisations (measured by staff size, head counts range from 150 to about 500) located in the U.S. The last is in Russia with a staff of about 30, although its management practices were developed when its head count was around 100.2 The second source is his own successes and disappointments in hiring and managing consultants in the U.S. and in a dozen transition and developing countries.

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