Delegating consulting projects to new hires and subcontractors is prone to high levels of failure and frustration.
The checklist below will help you deploy new resources better.
You’ve won a big forecasting engagement from Mercator Projections, Inc. (hooray). However, since your consulting firm’s current capacity is insufficient to deliver the Mercator Projections projections project, you need to hire an additional hand or subcontract to an outside resource.
Fortunately, you know Guy Huchipsin, whose capabilities neatly match the boundaries of this project.
Before you hire Guy and ask him to navigate the project’s requirements, your consulting firm has four overlapping-but-distinct sets of decisions to make.
Four Consulting Firm Delegation Decisions
Decision #1: Deliver Efficiently vs. Develop Competencies
Do you want to deliver a high-quality output to your client as precisely and efficiently as possible, or do you want to teach Guy a new competency?
If Guy is a subcontractor, you may not prioritize competency development.
However, if Guy is a new hire, this engagement could orient him on your consulting firm’s approach or it could bolster critical consulting skills such as strategic thinking.
Learning is inefficient. Conversely, efficient, precisely defined processes don’t develop competencies (beyond following the process).
Decision #2: Pay for Talent vs. Pay for Process
Irrespective of your Decision #1, you can invest in improving your process (even more) or hire a resource with the smarts and ability to produce your desired outcome within your current, imperfect process.
If Guy is highly talented, he may be overqualified and bored on a project that your consulting firm already has completely mapped out. Or, if Guy is very junior, he may not be competent to succeed on an engagement with an un(der)-developed approach.
Decision #3: Extent of Oversight
For each part of your consulting project, determine how closely you will supervise your new resource. The four levels below outline the extent to which you will oversee the task.*
Embedded in oversight is your direction on which conflicts, problems and ambiguities should be escalated versus handled by the new resource; however, you may want to explicitly outline your escalation rules.
Level 1 – Talk to me before you do anything.
Level 2 – Report back to me on a regular basis.
Level 3 – Tell me when it’s done.
Level 4 – Now that it’s yours, I plan to forget it forever.
Decision #4: Degree of Latitude
For each part of the project and each aspect of consulting delivery, determine how much leeway you’re giving Guy to determine how to accomplish the tasks you’re assigning to him.
Level O – Follow our precise processes and use our scripts/templates as designed.
Level o – Follow our processes, using your judgment to tweak and adjust as necessary.
Level y – Do it your way, while conforming to our QA checklist.
Level Y – Do it your way, as long as the objectives are met.
Using the Four Decisions in a Checklist
Ultimately, when you hand Guy an outline of the project expectations, deliverables, etc. you’ll include a summary of the four decisions.
Break out the different parts of your consulting project if your desired level of oversight or latitude vary.
Also consider whether oversight and latitude vary across the different aspects of consulting (e.g., work-plan development, solution development, client communication, etc.).
It looks something like this:
Project: Mercator Projections Projections Project
Resource: Guy Huchipsin
Priority: Deliver Efficiently –X––––––––– Develop Competency
Expectation: Focus on Output ––––X–––––– Focus on Process Improvement
|Interviews||3||o||Tweak our interview guide, as necessary|
|Analysis||3||Y||Let us know if you have questions|
|Work Sessions||2||O||Bi-weekly check-ins; pre-clear all client communications|
|Solution Development||1||y||Refer to our examples for typical solutions; review all ideas with us before implementing|
Of course, you also include the objectives, success metrics, and other important details about the project.
Is developing the checklist a bit of a pain? Yes. It takes up to 15 minutes to complete the checklist for one resource assigned to a project.
Then again, if you won’t devote 15 minutes to outfitting your new resource with a compass and roadmap, you can’t expect them to reach the land of success.
What else does it help to think through in advance when you’re hiring an employee or subcontractor to supplement your consulting firm’s staff?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.