20 Questions to Help You Uncover Your Client's TRUE Culture and Politics

To win business and deliver results - all consultants MUST cultivate their political savvy. While we may think that executives hire consultants for economic reasons - the reality is that more often that not, we're brought in for political reasons. 

Politics is not necessarily a bad thing. Politics gets its bad rap when leaders operate out of self-interest versus the best interest of others. Then ego issues such as who has more power, competition for resources and unhealthy conflicts raise their ugly heads. Good politics benefits the organization because it helps with providing checks and balances.

Here's 20 questions to help you uncover your client's true culture and politics (and I promise you - it's not what's posted on the organizational chart or the values hanging in the break room!)


  • What are the stated values? Are they what the company lives by?
  • Who are the organizations heroes? Why?
  • Who are the scapegoats? Why?
  • Who gets the most "positive press"? What behaviors do they exhibit that is validated?
  • What types of new ideas get noticed?
  • What types of ideas are ignored?
  • What is the tolerance for risk-taking?
  • What is the tolerance for failure? What happened to the last person or project that failed?
  • Who are the go-to people and perceived top talent? What is it that they do or say which makes them be perceived that way?


  • Who are the real influencers? Where do they actually fall in the organizational chart?
  • Who is so respected that when they speak, everybody listens?
  • Who has the formal authority but is not fully exercising it?
  • Who seems be the "power behind the throne"?
  • Who is that everybody looks for guidance regardless of the organizational chart?


  • Which departments get alone with one another?
  • Which departments are in conflict?
  • Which leaders get along with each other?
  • Which leaders are in conflict with each other?
  • Are there cliques? Who's in the cliques? Who's out?
  • Who on the team has a stronger voice with the overall leader? Why?
  • What are the formal systems for decision-making? Are decisions actually made in that matter? How are decisions really made?
  • Who is in the know? Who is not in the know? How does communication and influence actually flow?
Applying What You Learned

Ask yourself:

  • How do I need to use this information when landing work - especially the second or third contract with an existing client?
  • How do I need to use this information to ensure that I recommend the best solutions?
  • How do I need to use this information to enhance my effectiveness?

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