Every consulting project follows a distinct flow, especially from the client’s point of view. Can you improve the flow—and the value—of your consulting projects? Probably. Let’s take a look.
Chances are, your consulting projects are structured like one or more of the following examples:
These are in-and-out, hard-hitting projects. For example, a one-day facilitation, a training session, demolition of a building (which isn’t really consulting, but sounds fun), or a few days of intense activity intended to have an immediate impact.
Search for Solution
These are the most traditional, management consulting projects. Usually they commence with a big kickoff, then there’s behind-the-scenes work, perhaps a work session, culminating with a big meeting at the end in which the consultant delivers… drumroll… “the answer.”
This is an uncommon, but interesting structure. It typically revolves around a concrete, high-value goal that can be achieved in four-to-six weeks. I know a few, successful consulting firms that operate all their projects in this model. Often, the consultant assembles “tiger teams” of client personnel to tackle the project.
A coaching engagement launches with an assessment phase and, preferably, a complimentary shipment of chocolate from the client to the coach (just sayin’). Then the client receives a steady diet of periodic interactions until the end.
After an all-hands-on-deck kickoff, consultants work steadily through a predetermined plan. (Sometimes clients reserve a cluster of drab, worn cubicles for the consulting team to occupy during implementation.)
Advisory projects are the least predictable, because the client uses the consultant sporadically, when needed during a fixed period of time.
Of course, your projects may look slightly different or combine a couple of options. But what’s the best flow to create value?
Clearly, there’s no single project flow that is best for every project. (Sorry.) However, I’ll give you two recommendations to consider as you craft your next proposal:
Experiment with Structure
Your first pass at a project approach for a new engagement will probably include a structure like most of your other projects–likely one of the examples above. Now ask yourself:
How could you use one or more of the other project flows to accomplish your client’s outcome?
Virtually every client challenge could be addressed with any of the project structures I outline above. Sure, outside forces sometimes dictate the calendar, and a massive implementation project can’t be handled during a one-day intervention. However, I bet if you assembled enough resources and focus, you could accomplish a one-year implementation project in six weeks.
When you experiment with project structures, your proposal will include approaches that are more compelling, intriguing, and powerful than your client or your competitors suggested.
Add a Dinosaur Tail
In my experience, virtually every consulting project benefits from a project flow that includes a long tail with spikes on it. Consultants generally leave the scene too early, to the detriment of the client and the consultant.
The fact is, virtually every decision, plan, implementation and tidbit of advice a consultant delivers will improve with tinkering and 20/20 hindsight. Why not account for that in the design of your project?
I’ve sold and worked projects with every typical flow. Recently I’ve focused on improving the structure of my projects, and more of my engagements are receiving dinosaur tails.
For instance, I may start off the engagement with a kickoff or training day, then deliver a solution, then add a few sprints toward the end of the initiative to ensure the project is on track and accomplishing concrete goals.
Here’s what I’d like to know: how could you improve the flow of your projects?
Text and images are © 2016 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.