You throw your best efforts into delivering value for your consulting clients, improving your consulting firm’s marketing, and creating a rewarding consulting environment.
Then you find your work was off by a bit. Or more than a bit. Or completely wrong. Pickles-in-peanut-butter wrong.
That’s no fun.
Alas, I have bad news for you and me: we’re mistaken. About everything.
I also have good news: our mistaken assumptions represent a huge opportunity for our consulting firms.
In the 1970s, IBM engineers viewed personal computers as a fad, because they knew centralized computing power and efficiency would always outstrip individual nodes.
Their prediction was wrong, obviously. You and every other reader have at least one personal computer.
But believing that IBM’s prediction was wrong is, well, also wrong. You and every other reader are moving more and more of your computing to the cloud, which is just a new form of centralized computing.
The fact is, you constructed your consulting firm on a raft of assumptions. Your strategy, your marketing, your delivery engine, and your operations all stand on beliefs and premises.
And every single assumption has failed or will fail. It’s only a matter of when.
Some assumptions are safe, of course: gravity attracts two masses to each other, every day lasts 24 hours, and lox doesn’t belong on a cinnamon raisin bagel.
Except that gravity fails at the quantum particle level, a consultant traveling across time zones can add hours to his day, and my older son will only eat lox on cinnamon raisin bagels. (Blech!)
You can’t easily challenge every single aspect of your consulting firm every day or you’ll never make progress.
Instead, let nine signals direct your attentions to assumptions which, if you challenge them, could transform your consulting practice.
Unexpected Success Signals
Over the past 12 months, what were your consulting firm’s three biggest, most unexpected successes?
What went right that you hadn’t anticipated?
Therefore, what assumption(s) that you had made prior to the unforeseen win, turned out not to be true?
Unexpected Failure Signals
Over the past 12 months, what were your consulting firm’s three biggest, most unexpected failures?
What went wrong that you hadn’t anticipated?
Therefore, what assumption(s) that you had made prior to the unanticipated missteps, turned out not to be true?
Closely Held Belief Signals
Over the past 12 months, what were the three rules, laws, principles and/or frameworks you espoused most loudly, vociferously and publicly. The ideas you tell your consulting clients with absolute certainty.
What assumptions prop up your closely held beliefs?
What would happen if you admit your prior, public proclamations were wrong, and turn your back on your prior successes like Wynton Marsalis walking away from classical music performances?
For example, I loudly proclaimed for years that every consulting sale starts by finding a problem that clients find urgent and expensive to leave unsolved. But that’s wrong.
Your consulting sale starts with the belief that you have the wherewithal to deliver value if the prospect were to buy your offering. Without that belief, most consultants won’t even try to make a sale.
Testing your most precious assumptions creates the greatest opportunities for your consulting firm to experience a transformational breakthrough.
Now that you’ve used nine signals to flag assumptions that may not be true or that anchor your consulting firm’s work, you can proceed with two transformation questions.
Two Transformation Questions:
- Can you extrapolate or generalize from your learning; i.e., if you didn’t already hold your current assumption, would you come to the same conclusion based on evidence now?
- Would shifting your assumption fundamentally alter your consulting firm’s strategy, how you win consulting projects, how you deliver value to your clients or how you run your consulting business?
Have you ever changed your consulting firm’s fundamental assumptions?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.