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On Professional Services

As a consultant, I am duty-bound by my profession to deliver management solutions that build trust, leadership and long-term sustainability. So I drafted a few notes on how I achieve this in practice. 

  • The clients with whom I share uncommon relations value ingenuity, mastery and quality.  These clients understand and appreciate that I take every opportunity to enhance their productivity and to contribute to their success.
  • To sustain this approach, I depend on a solid foundation of principles: Maintain absolute integrity, know my stuff, declare expectations, show uncommon commitment, expect positive results, take care of people, put duty before myself, and get out in front.
a true professional understands that the scope within each client builds a perceptive consulting practice.
  • A true professional understands that the scope within each client, and not the number of clients on the roster, builds a perceptive consulting practice. The ultimate business strategy is to be a Strategic Partner to my clients.. the ultimate compliment, that I am the one my clients think to call when they are considering any investment.

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  • Focus: The principal focus is to add value to the client. I deliver unique value to engagements that the client does not already possess and cannot acquire, hence the reason my clients’ investment in me is so powerful and effective. I protect the client where there may be a lack of knowledge about my special business and technology skills, and I inform them, with diplomacy but also with urgency, of risks that I uncover in the performance of my responsibilities.

I always return to two key questions:

  1. how can I help?;
  2. what results are you looking for?

Keeping the client focused on value is a process that takes place throughout the relationship, and is the determinant for whether a project is on-track.

  • On Results: Consulting engagements with no measurable results for clients are at best incomplete, and at worse, failures. As an advisor, I work in partnership to ensure that advice results in meaningful change and in measurable benefit for our partners – an advisor improves the client’s condition. Before making recommendations, a superior advisor will consider i) culture, ii) readiness to change, iii) ability to manage projects and, iv) willingness to take risks in order to achieve benefits. Features and benefits must be weighed against cost, disruption and schedule.
an advisor improves the client’s condition.
  • The Client-Consultant Relationship: A perennial truth: I advise, the client decides. The client owns the solution and the result – client refusal or inability to commit to a solution is one of the biggest risks of the advisory relationship. For each engagement, I clearly establish that this is a collaborative partnership with shared responsibility for results.
  • Managing Expectations: Managing expectations is critical. I focus on and act in the best interests of the client. If a client expects magic instead of business or technology then the potential effectiveness of the engagement is in question and an ethical consultant may need to walk away — I have faced this situation many times, and each time another consultant says they would continue, it surprises me. Successful consultants are skilled in gauging client expectations, guiding them to understand how the advisory process will work, reassuring them that together we will reach the desired result, and ensuring that expectations on both sides are clearly delineated and met.
bring not knowledge nor experience to assignments; rather, bring ignorance.
  • On Problem Solving: I do not bring knowledge or experience to my assignments, rather I bring my ignorance.
  1. Define the central problem (draft a one-sentence central problem statement in the form of a question)
  2. List the relevant factors
  3. List (all) alternative courses of action or solutions (with advantages/disadvantages) ; reword the central problem as necessary
  4. Discuss/Analyse alternatives
  5. List conclusions
  6. Make recommendations.
  • On Options: My obligation as a professional is to inform the client of the options available and to help him or her understand the possible outcomes, both good and bad, of the decision. Once this professional responsibility is fulfilled, and the client has made a decision, it is then my job to accept the client’s decision and to assist in achieving optimal value from that choice.
  • On Technology: All clients apply technology to serve a business need (these days, regrettably, this is poorly understood.) Technology is an enabler, not a driver of competitive advantage. A deliverable is never a technology. A deliverable is always a business result.
 knowing the book is far less important than making the book irrelevant.
  • Standard PM Techniques transparently lead to consistent results: Scope Management, Time Management, Cost Management, Human Resource Management, Risk Management, Quality Management, Contract Management, Communication Management. I’m not saying big process, big documentation. Knowing the book is far less important than making the book irrelevant.
  • Change in the course of a project: The job of every leader is to articulate vision. There is a possibility, and I discuss this with my clients, that as we work together, the vision we each had of the problem and its solution may change, and that I have an orderly process for managing this typical occurrence.
  • On Project Budgets: A budget is a good-faith estimate, but a consultant bills for actual hours expended (well, in fairness, great consultants bill on the basis of value, not effort.) The only protection against financial surprises is regularly tracking/communicating how much is spent versus value delivered, along with adjustments as necessary and reinforced by a success guarantee. Financial surprises are the worst for client/consultant relationships and are devastating to the trust and confidence we have worked diligently to build. Use an agile approach, remain flexible, and be prepared to revisit expectations while keeping everyone’s eye on the prize.
financial surprises are devastating to the trust and confidence we work diligently to build.
  • On Documentation: My aim, at least for personal reasons, is to document all phases of the client engagement process, from contract and expectations, to project vision, to the current state, to the steps of the design process that produced the options presented, and much more than this. If requested, though it never is, I could literally reproduce entire projects. Clients, with a few exceptions like healthcare, aerospace and banks, really are not wild about documentation. Thus, I employ synthesis and pragmatism to demonstrate competent, just-in-time documentation that allows clients to maintain results.
  • On Politics: Politics are a necessary lubricant in human affairs, and a personal code of conduct that defines acceptable and unacceptable political behaviour guides me to exercise political skills without becoming a politician. I make no secret that I use experience, objectivity, compassion and empathy to identify resistance and channel its useful potential.
  • No measure of anticipation frees the need to exercise political skills, to influence others to achieve project goals, to overcome resistance and fear, and to negotiate and compromise in order to realize my commitments to my clients.
 It is no secret that I use experience, objectivity, compassion and empathy to identify resistance and channel its useful potential.

 

Consulting is a noble profession, and I like it. smiles

 

A.R.

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