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The Effectiveness Quilt – A Surprising Way to Improve Your Consulting Firm

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Good is the enemy of great.” Yes, that saying arose to justify eliminating “chocolates” made with carob. (I’m pretty sure.) We’ve talked about this notion before, but in this article we’ll explore another aspect of building a more effective consulting firm by eliminating what you’re good at.

After you’ve read this article, take a minute to list of all the tasks you tackle during a typical month running your consulting firm. Then rate each task on a 1-5 scale on two dimensions: enjoyment and competency.

Your result will be an Effectiveness Quilt.

That upper rightmost green box is where you’re super effective. It’s your area of Innate Genius, and you’re orders of magnitude more effective there than anywhere else on the quilt. Ideally, you and your consulting firm operate 80% or more of the time in your Innate Genius. (More on Innate Genius in this article and in this one.)

Tasks in the red and brownish, lower left portion of the Effectiveness Quilt are easy to give up via delegation, automation, or elimination. Filing papers, editing whitepapers, eating soggy crackers. We don’t like doing that stuff anyway.

The real challenges are the tasks we’re pretty good at or we know we’re not great at but we enjoy doing anyway. Yellow-ish green tasks like fiddling with our office layout or designing a presentation template. Those tasks are tough to give up.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Over the next two weeks, keep track of all the different tasks you tackle and how long you spend on each. What you’ll likely find is that you lose small scraps of time on a smattering of low effectiveness tasks.

More importantly, you’ll find you’re devoting the bulk of your time to tasks in the “tough to let go” zone. Where your effectiveness is neither terrible nor outstanding.

Which tasks do we typically hand off to others? The ones we don’t enjoy (i.e., the bottom of the quilt).

What you should do is: eliminate tasks outside your Innate Genius based on how much time they consume.

The real drag on your effectiveness as a consulting firm leader is not the small bundle of tasks that you sorta bite at; rather, it’s the barrel of tasks you enjoy and your competency is good, but not superlative. That barrel is stealing valuable time from your Innate Genius.

You can apply the same exercise to each individual in your consulting firm and to your consulting firm as a whole. Both will be revealing.

I guarantee you will increase your consulting firm’s effectiveness by delegating, automating or eliminating tasks in the yellow-green, upper-right area of the Effectiveness Quilt and gifting yourself more time in the Innate Genius square.

What task that you enjoy doing could you give up to make your consulting firm more effective? (That’s not rhetorical. Answer below.)


7 Comments
  1. David A. Fields
    September 26, 2018 at 1:44 am Reply

    Looking from my terrace in Matera yesterday at caves humans inhabited thousands of years ago, put everything into perspective…
    Overlooking Materan caves

    …those troglodytes really needed consultants!

  2. debbie
    September 26, 2018 at 10:26 am Reply

    Could one apply the quilt to defining your niche services?

    • David A. Fields
      October 10, 2018 at 6:33 am Reply

      The Effectiveness Quilt can help you define how you deliver your niche service; however, your offering to the market place should reflect market demand rather than your own competencies and interests.

      Plenty of consultants start their practice with, “I love to make tacos” (or, perhaps, something more businessy). Unless the marketplace loves to buy and eat tacos as much as the consultant loves to make them, those consultants end up hungry. Ironic.

      Interesting question, Debbie, and I’m glad you asked it.

  3. Joe Frisbie
    October 13, 2018 at 3:35 am Reply

    Why is someone else always able to put your thought into an intelligent discussion/article?

    • David A. Fields
      October 15, 2018 at 11:22 am Reply

      Joe, one of the advantages of writing is that it forces you to distill and clarify your thoughts. One of the advantages of reading is it allows you to approach a concept through someone else’s experience and outlook. Both are insanely valuable. Thanks for the feedback, Joe.

  4. Anatoli Naoumov
    November 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm Reply

    I like writing posts, but not too good at doing this. It’s definitely too expensive to do it myself. Pushed myself into investing time into hiring a pro blogger.

    • David A. Fields
      November 14, 2018 at 9:05 pm Reply

      Sounds like a smart idea, Anatoli. You’ve recognized where you’re strong and where bringing in a skilled resources makes sense. Thank you for the excellent case study.

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