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The Perfect, Post-Project Checklist for Your Consulting Firm

You want your consulting firm to continuously improve and grow.

The door to improvement and growth opens when you reflect on an experience, not simply from living through the event.

Ergo, reflecting on every project will help your consulting firm thrive.

But what, specifically, should you evaluate? Or, as sophisticated, technical consultants are trained to query: what notions should you noodle?

The topics below can serve as your checklist for a post-mortem. In fact, I’ve even included a checklist for you to download.

The Consulting Firm Continuous Improvement Checklist

Client Acquisition

(Consider completing this part of the checklist immediately upon receiving approval on a consulting project.)

Source of lead:
Client’s Need and/or Want:
Concerns, risks, and objections raised prior to close:
Language that worked:
Missteps along the way:
Implications for marketing, qualifying opportunities, Discovery, proposal development and negotiation:

Complete the remainder of the checklist immediately upon conclusion of a contract or project, or at a predetermined time period if the engagement is ongoing.

Scoping

Were the client’s ultimate problems, Want and/or Need, identified during Discovery?
Was the client’s highest value problem identified?
Was the amount of work involved accurately forecasted?
Implications for the Discovery process (i.e., questions to ask consulting prospects in the future):

Approach

What part of our consulting firm’s approach to this project could have been systemized, automated, delegated to a lower level, and/or outsourced?
What could be improved to create higher value for clients next time?
Implications for approach:

Models

Were the conceptual models we used to frame/solve the client’s challenge accurate?
How could the conceptual models we used be more compelling, memorable, and/or distinctive?
What new, conceptual models, frameworks, distinctions, and metaphors emerged?
Implications for conceptual models used in marketing, Discovery, consulting project execution and/or delivery:

Client Experience

Client remarks and/or our observations of the client experience at each stage:
Pursuit
Onboarding
Execution (including management of missteps)
Wrap-Up

(Note: if clients don’t remark positively on the experience, the client experience needs improvement.)

Implications and improvement areas for client experience:

Action Plan

Based on the assessments above, what can we improve immediately? What longer-term improvements will we prioritize and start working on over the next month?
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Want to download a ready-to-use version of this checklist? Get it by clicking this link.

What other questions would/do you ask during a consulting project post-mortem?


14 Comments
  1. Derek Fields
    April 3, 2019 at 8:42 am Reply

    Nice list of questions. I prefer the term “retrospective” to post-mortem, which makes it sound like something died.

    In my industry (software), we have developed the idea of doing regular retrospectives during the course of the project, not waiting until the project is over. At regular intervals, we want to pause for an hour and ask these kinds of questions of everyone involved in the project: Are we accomplishing our objectives? What has gone well? Where can we continue to improve? This leads to a checklist of actions that will allow us to improve on our delivery continuously rather than only at the end of a project..

    • David A. Fields
      April 3, 2019 at 10:00 am Reply

      You’re right that retrospective sounds better than post-mortem… though lately I’ve seen a couple of projects that ended up in a consulting morgue.

      More importantly, good on you (and your firm) for conducting reviews regularly during the project, Derek. Not many firms stick to that practice (or conduct a review at all), so you’re way ahead of the game! Your comment will inspire other readers to make a habit of retrospective reviews also.

    • Kevin Lawson
      April 3, 2019 at 10:02 am Reply

      David,
      I too am a fan of the questions list.
      Derek,
      Your comment really resonates with me for our practice. The elongated sales cycle/process in our shared industry lends itself to regular retrospectives in opportunity stages. Further, continual learning and application from the retrospectives allows rapid performance enhancement in opportunity stages throughout a sales cycle. You’ve given some additional food for thought to David’s content.
      Thank you.

      • David A. Fields
        April 3, 2019 at 10:46 am Reply

        Thanks for adding more perspective and your situation to Derek’s comment, Kevin.

        (Woo hoo! Readers learning from other readers… mission accomplished!)

  2. John
    April 3, 2019 at 10:12 am Reply

    Really great content; thank you David.

    • David A. Fields
      April 3, 2019 at 10:44 am Reply

      You’re very welcome, John. It’s feedback and contribution from readers like you that continuously make the content better!

  3. Tim Kist
    April 3, 2019 at 11:11 am Reply

    Hi David,
    What a terrific checklist. I am delighted to see such a focus on the client, and then relating back to how you (the consultant) interacted during each step of the process. Too often we only look at what we did/are doing next from an internal perspective and we forget that the key person is the client. Thanks also for the download!
    Cheers,
    Tim

    • David A. Fields
      April 3, 2019 at 11:36 am Reply

      So, it turns out that in this consulting line o’ work, clients are sort of important. Who knew?!

      Seriously, you’re right, Tim. Consultants often become so focused on their internal goals and tasks that they forget the business is ultimately about creating value for clients. I’m glad you highlighted that point.

  4. Tom Borg
    April 3, 2019 at 11:25 am Reply

    David,
    Very complete check list of necessary activities at the conclusion of the project. I like and will incorporate it into my system that I am using now.

    • David A. Fields
      April 3, 2019 at 11:37 am Reply

      Key words: “my system that I am using now.” Kudos to you for having a system in place and for improving it, Tom. Very impressive.

  5. Alvin
    April 3, 2019 at 3:08 pm Reply

    I love your book David and I’m working my way through it at the moment. These lists are fantastic.
    I worked for a firm with a good rep. But when you go on your own. It’s a whole different ball game!
    If anyone can help me with tips or in any way to develop my system I would very much appreciat it.
    Great book, great list, great comments to follow. This is value!

    • David A. Fields
      April 3, 2019 at 6:07 pm Reply

      Congratulations on your transition from a big firm to your own shop, Alvin. You’re right that it’s apples vs. oranges. The rules, systems and approaches that work for very large consulting firms don’t apply well to any firm under $30 million in revenue, and don’t apply virtually at all to single-shingle operation.

      If you’re looking for more systems, etc., I’d suggest you scour the blog–there are, literally, hundreds of articles covering virtually every topic you can imagine. In addition, if the timing works for you, grab one of the (limited) seats at the next Solo Practice Accelerator when it opens up. Those are just a couple of thoughts.

      Good on you for jumping in and joining the conversation, Alvin! That, in itself, shows you’re committed to taking action that will move your consulting business forward.

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