Your consulting skills are crucial for delivering high quality, impactful advice to your client. At 180 Degrees Consulting, we developed a consulting methodology tailored to the specific needs of the nonprofit sector, as well as taking into account the wide variety of projects you might encounter. The 7-step framework is a fundamental method to structure a consulting project. It teaches you the process of how to develop creative solutions for any type of problem your clients might be facing.

The 7-Step Framework


The 7-Step framework is a simple and effective way of solving a business problem. It is designed to be iterative and enables you to show clients your thinking at each stage of the process. It also allows you to incorporate clients’ ideas and new information as it arises. As such, it is important to have regular contact with your clients throughout the project.

Short outline of the steps

Outline of Steps

Step 1) Define Problem:

This ensures that consultants and clients are on the same page and answering the same question.

Step 2) Structure the Problem:

Consider all the factors that could possibly be influencing the situation and then structure the problem into categories.

Step 3) Prioritize Issues:

Identify the issues that are the most important. This saves time by not considering aspects that are not relevant.

Step 4) Analysis Plan and Work Plan:

Analysis Plan – This is directly related to the way the problem is structured. The way the problem is broken up will become the work modules.

Work Planning – This involves breaking down the project into steps with specifics deadlines and allocating people to do the different tasks.

Step 5) Conduct Analysis:

More tailored and depends on the project

Answer the question, “What do I need to do to find the facts to answer the question?”

Step 6) Synthesize Findings:

Answer the question, “What do all the findings mean for the client?”

A good consultant is able to synthesize all the evidence and tell the client very clearly what was found and what they should do

This is the “so what” question

Step 7) Develop Recommendations

This is the “so what” question

Please find the link to the full powerpoint presentation here.

Step 1: Define problem

Step 1: Define Problem

Think impact: What is the question you are trying to answer?

During this first step, you will try to clarify exactly what problem the client faces. Usually, you will try to phrase the problem as a question to which the client would like you to find an answer. This then enables you to develop a list of the information you need to be able to answer the question.

Find more information about the first step here.

Step 2: Structure the problem

Step 2: Structure the Problem

Think disaggregation and early hypothesis: What could be the key elements of the problem?

After defining the problem, you will try to structure and disaggregate it in order to make it more manageable to solve. Usually, this is done by setting up a so-called issue tree which divides the problem into its component parts and therefore provides a good overview for both your consulting team and your client.

Find more information about the second step here.

Step 3: Prioritize Issues

Step 3: Prioritize Issues

Think speed: Which parts of the tree are most important to the problem?

After defining and structuring the problem you will prioritize the different elements of the problem (that is, parts of the issue tree) by determining which elements are most critical to the problem or most likely to shed light on the solution to the problem. This step is partly motivated by the 80-20 rule, which is the notion that 20% of the issues will probably be responsible for causing 80% of the problem.

Find more information about the third step here.

Step 4: Analysis Plan and Work Plan

Step 4: Analysis Plan and Work Plan

Think efficiency: What should you spend your time on?

During this step, you will develop a list of the pieces of analysis that you want to conduct, based on your prioritization of issues in the previous step. An additional aspect of this step is to set up a work plan to decide upon the work distribution (which team members will work on which piece of analysis) and deadlines. This will ensure that the project will be delivered on time and serves as an early warning system if deadlines are not kept.

Find more information about the fourth step here.

Step 5: Conduct Analysis

Step 5: Conduct Analysis

Think evidence: What are you trying to (dis)prove?

During this step, you will do the ground work for the consulting project. The previous steps were used to prepare for this step. Undertaking the analysis means that each team member starts working on his or her tasks (i.e. the analysis/questions decided upon in the work plan). This stage may include interviews, client workshops, data analysis, research, and so on.

Find more information about the fifth step here.

Step 6: Synthesize Findings

Step 6: Synthesize Findings

Think ‘so what’: What are the implications of your findings?

During this step, you will bring together all the results from the different pieces of analysis and try to generate insights by relating the results to the problem statement derived during the first step of the framework. The resulting synthesis should show your client and yourself what you have learned about the problem and potential solutions.

Find more information about the sixth step here.

Step 7: Develop Recommendations

Step 7: Develop Recommendations

Think potential solution: What should be done to best respond to the problem?

During this last phase of the 7-step framework, you will use your synthesis from the previous step to develop recommendations for your client. These recommendations should answer the problem statement you developed in the beginning of the project together with the client. Furthermore, the recommendations should be backed up by a set of conclusions, each of which should be backed-up by a set of findings (drawn from the analysis you conducted previously).

Find more information about the seventh step here.


Using the 7-Step Framework: real-life case

  • The past 25 years, Brothers of Sharing organizes a summer camp that tries to activate participants from 16-30 years, to think North-South.
  • In the last 10 years, the number of participants decreased from 200 to 50. Over the past 3 years, they even started to open up the event for families members also (parents and/or children) to attract participants and to cover their expenses.
  • The summer camp is a 5 days event in the first week of July. Each year the summer camp focuses on a different theme/country where they want to draw attention to. They decorate the camp accordingly and have funny, creative extra’s related to the theme (for example, they use the local currency of the country on which they focus).
  • During the event, participants can attend lectures, panel discussions, workshops, etc.
  • Currently, the target group is Flemish youth (16-30 year). They assume, however, that the sub-group 16-20 is the most important (they know from experience that when you can activate these people, you have them for life).

Find out how 180 Degrees Consulting solved this case, by clicking here.


Test yourself with this quick self-assessment

The self-assessment tool contains some case questions but also some questions related to the 180 Degrees Consulting methodology 7-step framework. It is strongly recommended to first go through the different videos and only test yourself after you think you understand the methodology sufficiently. Do not hesitate to contact the Global Consulting team if something is not clear or if you like to have more information.

Consult following link to test yourself: click here.
For an overview of the correct answers: click here.



Other useful tools

Introducing the DIY Toolkit, an absolutely incredible set of 30 practical tools to trigger and support social innovation curated by the leading social innovation foundation, NESTA. See the full toolkit here.


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