Remember your first boss, Justin Thyme? (Your first boss may have worked under an assumed name.) Justin taught you, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it again?! Rework is bad.”
Justin was right.
Justin was also wrong. Rework is your consulting firm’s most important obligation.
Uh oh, we have an assumptions knot to untangle.
Systems are good for consulting firms. (For instance, see this article, this article, and this article.) Systems eliminate rework by replacing error-prone decision points with hard-wired, correct paths forward.
When you cut out variable approaches and install systems at your consulting firm, you reduce expensive rework and produce consistent output that, by definition, meets your high standards.
Similarly, standards and systems allow you to hand your IP and project approaches to others with confidence that they will execute at least as well as you would.
You also know your consulting firm benefits from establishing scalable, replicable offerings. Repeatability is a must if you want to grow your consulting firm, profitably create more value for more clients and enjoy more vacations.
This all leads to a clear, virtuous path for your consulting firm:
That’s what Justin taught you.
But there’s a fly in Justin’s soup.
Standard processes apply to standard situations. Standard situations may not require a high-powered, experienced, savvy consulting firms like yours.
In fact, the clients who are most eager to engage your consulting firm may not benefit optimally from your standard offerings and approaches.
It’s possible that your standard, replicable, efficient approach to a project will yield outstanding results for your client.
However, it’s also possible that in your client’s particular situation, something fundamental is different. Some basic assumption or starting point varies from the norm.
And this is where the darker aspects of the virtuous systemization path emerge.
To spot the subtle-but-important differences in your clients’ situations requires critical thinking.
It requires you to be willing to challenge your standard assumptions. To deviate from your efficient, systemized processes. To rework.
Consultants (like everyone else) are prone to set-it-and-forget-it errors. As noted above, there are good reasons for your consulting firm to put your approaches and solutions on automatic.
Unfortunately, that’s also the road to under-delivery and meh client value.
Your clients deserve fresh thinking. They have hired you to solve their issue, not to implement the general practice that applies to most situations.
Your consulting firm’s obligation is to rework your standard offering on behalf of every client.
Four “Rework” Questions You Owe Every Client on Every Project:
- Does this client’s situation completely align with our standard assumptions?
- Is our standard solution the right solution for this client?
- Is each step in our systemized process the best step for this client?
- Will each recommendation we typically make create the most value for this client?
As an aside, ChatGPT is demonstrating that if your consulting firm’s approach is based primarily on pattern recognition rather than critical thinking, you’re replaceable.
That’s good if your intended path is a to develop a sellable offering that requires low labor intensity.
That’s less good if ConsultingBot can absorb your systems and guide clients just as well, faster, more easily and at a fraction of the cost of your consulting firm.
How do you balance systemization and critical thinking (rework) in your consulting practice?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.