As a consultant, one can gather the required information from several sources, which include records, memories, and also events and conditions. Any of these sources may vary either by being internal or external to the organization. Records are usually facts stored in forms that are readable or can be transcribed. They may be accessed from computers, files, films, tapes, drawings pictures, among others. Events and conditions are actions and the circumstances surrounding them that were obtained through information. The other source is from memories which are usually stored in the minds of people in the organization and who can convey the information to the consultant.
Retrieving information from these different sources requires different gathering methods. Information from records can be easily studied and managed due to their easy way of access. However, the limitation of using such information lies in the fact that recorded information can be altered, and thus it is not reliable for giving a clear picture about the situation, and this might lead to wrong advice being offered. The records can also have detailed descriptions of methods that were abandoned the wrong time ago. The information can also be gathered through special recording. The assisting staff helps in gathering the information and then passes the information to the consultant. To save costs involved, such recording should be kept simple and last no longer than the necessary time for its reliability. Observation is another method through which the consultant can gather the needed information.
During the consulting process, the consultant may observe management and staff meetings during which it might be possible to identify group processes and behaviors related to the problem in question. Due to the fact that most people feel uncomfortable under scrutiny, it may not be that easy to observe the behaviors of the target group or individuals. The consultant should explain the purpose of the survey and explain to the people being observed that the survey is only aimed at obtaining reliable information on how certain activities are performed. The problem with this method is the fact that such a situation can force the target population to change their normal way of life, thus giving out a picture opposite to the expected.
Questionnaires are another method through which information can be gathered. Most of the time, questionnaires are preferred when one is seeking straightforward facts from a large population. They are usually distributed to the respondents to be collected on the same day or at a later date after completion. Rather than being simple, most questionnaires fail to capture the real situation since the questions are direct and short.
The last method through which a consultant can gather information is through interviews. One major advantage of using an interview over a questionnaire is the fact that any answer given can be tested or elaborated during the time of the interviews, and thus there are high chances of obtaining credible information. The questions asked usually supplement and support each other, confirming, correcting, or even contradicting a previous situation. Interviews also sometimes lead to revealing unexpected relationships. The major disadvantage of using interviews is that they are time-consuming as well as expensive and require close concentration by all the parties involved.