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An Easy Routine that Will Help Your Consulting Firm Grow

As a consulting firm leader, you’re winning projects, delivering client delight, upgrading your support infrastructure and pondering strategies for growth. What if there was a simple routine you could layer into your ongoing activities that would accelerate your progress?

Your consulting firm may already incorporate a post-project retrospective into your standard operating approach. If you’re way ahead of the curve, you conduct retrospectives periodically during your projects too.

However, typical retrospectives largely focus on how you “played” your project. A “Play it” retrospective examines what you (and your client) did and didn’t do, and suggests how your consulting firm should act differently in the future.

You can easily elevate your Play It retrospective to a Play It, Weigh It, Say It examination, which is much more powerful.

The Play It, Weigh It, Say It Retrospective

Play It

You’re probably familiar with a post-project review of how you conducted a consulting engagement. You’ll find a very solid retrospective covering five aspects of every project in this article.

If the list of questions in that article seems too daunting, you could revert to a simpler, four-question list:

  • What went well during this project?
  • What did not go well during this project?
  • If we could go back in time and do the project over, what would we have done differently?
  • Based on the answers to the first three questions, what systemic changes should we make to our approach or operations?

The output of your Play It retrospective will tell you:

  • What (and how) your current, standardized approaches should be updated
  • What (and how) new approaches should be standardized and codified
  • What (and how) one-off situations should be avoided in the future

Weigh It

The Weigh It retrospective focuses specifically on data and metrics, both of which are instrumental to improving your consulting firm and demonstrating your value to clients and prospects. To conduct a Weigh It retrospective, ask:

  • During the project, did we capture or assemble any data that, if we can share it ethically, would be useful to other clients, prospective clients or our tribe in general?
  • Can any data we captured or that we could create from this project feed into benchmarks that would be valuable for our clients, prospective clients, or our tribe in general?
  • What data can we capture or produce from the project that feed a quantitative assessment of how to operate our consulting firm and improve the likelihood of project success?
    • Note that at a minimum, you can capture the duration of the project, and enumerate the factors that facilitated and impeded the project’s success.

The outputs of your Weigh It retrospective are data. You’re charged with leveraging that data to improve your operations and, especially, to advance your thought leadership.

Prospective clients want to know in advance whether their project will be successful. When you show, with documented evidence, the factors that make your consulting projects successful, your credibility shoots through the roof.

Say It

Consulting is a communication game. Therefore, the Say It retrospective focuses on what and how you communicated over the course of the project. During the Say It portion of your retrospective, ask:

  • What, specifically, did we say during the project that triggered a “Wow, that’s a great point!” reaction?
  • What, specifically did we say that triggered our client to say something like, “That’s exactly what I meant, but said better”?
  • What, if any, phrases, language, labels or models of ours have become operating lingo inside our client?
  • What phrases or terms did we encounter during the project that are clever and succinctly capture an idea?

The outputs of your Say It retrospective are:

  • Topics for articles, presentations and other Thought Leadership
  • New, boilerplate language that will improve the impact of future proposals and deliverables
  • Direction on how to enhance your communication with clients and prospects

Even if you don’t work through every question, a one-hour Play It, Weigh It, Say It retrospective at the conclusion of every project will quickly improve your consulting firm’s performance.

Are there any other questions or topics you’d add to the Play It, Weigh It, Say It retrospective?

  1. William J. Ryan
    June 7, 2023 at 7:14 am Reply

    I’m in your choir David, early in my career the model of after-action reviews was a part of our standard process and I have kept that process as a part of what I bring to employer and clients. It isn’t something I typically charge for either, it is worth 2-3 hours to learn, review, reflect and then provide the results so I may revise, and the client can glean the shared insights to use as they see fit. A couple of follow up projects have resulted from this tho that has never been the focus, this just helps everyone improve.

    • David A. Fields
      June 7, 2023 at 7:28 am Reply

      Super interesting, Bill. The retrospective the article suggests is an internal review; however, as you note, a retrospective with your client is also extremely valuable. Like you, we always conduct a “close out” at the end of an engagement to understand what has gone well and what could be improved from the client’s point of view. (It’s also a chance to cement in their minds the value of working with us, and to gain a testimonial).

      Thanks for adding that angle on the retrospective, Bill.

  2. Mitchell Fink
    June 7, 2023 at 7:24 am Reply

    Short version: Plan – Execute – Evaluate

    • David A. Fields
      June 7, 2023 at 7:31 am Reply

      Yes, Mitchell. The “Play, Weigh, Say” framework expands what you evaluate. Most consulting firms that include a post-project evaluation stop at the Play stage–they evaluate what they did, but don’t make the most of the data or communication riches generated by the project.

      Thanks for jumping into the conversation, Mitchell!

  3. Susan
    June 7, 2023 at 12:19 pm Reply

    David, maybe one of the top 10 articles you’ve written. I employ a satisfaction survey methodology with clients that encompasses much of the Play It and the rest of that and the weigh it I do myself with some input from the team. But I know I want to do more of what you’ve mentioned now that I’ve hired an Operations Director to take more off my plate, so thank you for the framework!

    • David A. Fields
      June 7, 2023 at 1:25 pm Reply

      Outstanding, Susan! Good on you for already being totally in gear with your Play It retrospective, and double gold stars for hiring an Operations Director who will enable you to enhance your business. That’s an important and impressive step.

      I’m glad you shared your experience and where you’re headed, Susan. You’ve provided an inspiring example.

    • Juli
      June 18, 2023 at 5:10 pm Reply

      Agreed, Susan! Love this article- thanks for sharing, David!

      • David A. Fields
        June 18, 2023 at 6:20 pm Reply

        And thank you for the feedback and comment, Juli!

  4. Hugo
    June 7, 2023 at 3:00 pm Reply

    LEAN Consulting! PDCA cycles. Great post David.

    • David A. Fields
      June 7, 2023 at 3:39 pm Reply

      Exactly, Hugo. If we inject “measure” and “catalog” into the plan-do-check-act cycle, then we have a super-charged LEAN process. I’m glad you connected those dots for me and other readers!

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