Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting
Selected Tips From the Book
From Chapter 2: Client Relations
Tip #12: Beware of Silent Saboteurs
Holly sat in the conference room with two of her fellow consultants. It was ten minutes past the meeting’s scheduled start time and Sam was a no-show once again.
“This is the third time he’s blown us off,” she said in exasperation. “I wonder what the deal is.”
She adjourned the nonexistent meeting and walked over to Sam’s office. He was at his desk talking to one of his developers. “Hey, I’m sorry,” he said. “We had an emergency production issue come up. Can we reschedule?”
“I’ll see if I can reschedule sometime,” Holly said without commitment.
That afternoon Alex, the partner from her firm, stopped by at the client and she sat down with him to discuss Sam.
Alex’s interest piqued when he heard about Sam’s behavior. “In the meetings he does show up for, has he shown any form of disruptiveness?” he asked.
“Now that you mention it, he asks a lot of questions. He kind of shoots ideas down but in a subtle kind of way,” she responded.
“That’s interesting,” said Alex. “He may be quietly sabotaging the project. Has he handed in any deliverables late?”
“I’ve only asked him to provide two deliverables. They were both late and one had to be completely redone. Do you think he’s doing this on purpose to damage the project?”
“We can’t make that accusation,” said Alex. “He’s very busy so everything we have on him could be explained by the fact that he’s spread so thin. But, whether he’s doing it on purpose or because he’s so over-allocated, the fact remains that it’s an issue because it’s bringing the project down.”
“But this project is supposed to increase the productivity for his area. Why would he be intentionally disruptive?” wondered Holly.
There are many situations where a client employee will wreak havoc on a project. Sometimes, that person is so busy they are unable to attend meetings and provide information on a timely basis.
Other times, they may be clandestinely working to derail the project. This can happen for several reasons:
Fear of job loss. Consultants generally help client organizations become more efficient. This often translates to staff layoffs. If a software system can be installed that allows the client to do the same work with fewer employees, why wouldn’t they eliminate jobs once the software is implemented? The employees may create disruptions in the project to reduce the chance of layoffs.
Resistance to change. Even if the client employees don’t fear losing their jobs, they may fear that the completion of the project will cause an unwelcome disruption in their daily routines. Perhaps they fear being moved to a different location working with different people. Fear of the unknown can drive people to resist, causing major disruptions in a project.
General disdain for consultants. Client employees often dislike consultants. Perhaps they see them as outsiders who don’t know the business as well as a full-time employee does. Perhaps a consultant from a previous job caused the employee to lose his job. Maybe it’s just fun for them to disprove the experts. For whatever the reason, they may adapt a passive-aggressive approach in which they act friendly and cooperative on the surface, but work behind the scenes to bring the project--and as a result, the consultants--down.
The arsonist and the fireman syndrome. Some employees simply like to be the hero. When a big project is being executed that has executive attention, some workers will cause small disruptions, which culminate in major delays. They respond by swooping in to save the project, resulting in kudos by the executives. No one realizes that they actually set the fires that they heroically fought.
From Chapter 3: Personal Branding
Tip #43: Share Your Knowledge
A consultant, by nature, shares his knowledge. Clients turn to consultants for advice to be shared. Knowledge is our product. But sharing of knowledge goes far beyond the day-to-day sharing with clients.
Knowledge should be shared within the firm so that consultants can learn each others’ expertise. Many firms have knowledge management repositories that encourage people to share documents, processes, and best practices with each other. But sharing via face-to-face communication is much more effective.
Even the greenest consultant fresh out of college has some form of unique knowledge that can be shared with someone. Mentoring--whether formal or informal--is traditionally the role of older, more experienced workers sharing their years of accumulated knowledge with less experienced workers. But knowledge can be shared by younger people with more experienced coworkers.
Perhaps a young consultant has knowledge and experience with newer technologies that a more experienced worker is not familiar with. Sharing knowledge with anyone, regardless of the age of the learner, makes for a more efficient and more knowledgeable team.
Sharing of knowledge can be done in many forms:
. Meeting individually, whether in formal, regularly scheduled sessions or on an as-needed basis when questions arise creates a forum for consultants to share knowledge with one another.
Allowing individuals at any level to host a lunch-and-learn session where anyone interested in the chosen topic can bring his own lunch and hear someone give a presentation for one hour or less.
At the end of every consulting engagement, teams should assemble to review their lessons learned. Some firms make a practice of holding two separate sessions; one with client personnel present and one with only employees of the firm. A firm-only session allows them to speak more frankly about mistakes made and limitations in any of the firm’s processes.
Publish your knowledge
. Using today’s technology, it is easier than ever to create a blog on any subject in which you have some level of expertise. Many websites and online magazines welcome articles from people who have knowledge they want to share and can put it down in words that people can understand and learn from.
From Chapter 4: Expectation Setting
Tip #44: Exit Professionally
Naveen sat across from his account manager in the client’s conference room and began to smile for the first time in quite a while. He was learning the details of the end of his assignment at this client.
The project had not gone well for him. He thought it would be a great opportunity to learn some new technologies, but he was assigned to a team that maintained an old system using old technologies.
On top of that, he just didn’t get along with his client counterparts. He was assigned to two client employees that didn’t accept him. They didn’t think they needed help from an outside consultant and didn’t include him in meetings and other critical information.
As a result, he was glad to be moving on. He was ready for a fresh start. His account manager informed him that this coming Friday would be his last day on the project. He would report to the consulting firm’s offices the following Monday. For Naveen, Friday couldn’t come soon enough.
He trudged through the week counting the minutes of each day. When Friday finally came, he ambled through the day, went to lunch with a few friends, and then cut out early.
The following Monday, when he couldn’t be found, the client called Naveen’s firm to find out where he was. Management at both the client and Naveen’s firm were aware of him rolling off of the project, but both parties had relied on Naveen to inform his team and transfer whatever knowledge he had back to them prior to his exit.
There comes a time in every consulting project when the consultant leaves the project, normally known as “rolling off” the project.
Consultants are temporary workers. There is always the possibility that the client will ask for you to come back for another project, but at some point, you leave the client to work for another or to sit on the consulting “bench” waiting for reassignment.
Rolling off of a project can lead to mixed emotions. On one hand, one of the great things about consulting is the variety of experiences. This includes going to different clients, working with different teams and implementing a variety of solutions. Rolling off of a project is an opportunity to move on to another exciting opportunity.
On the other hand, if the consultant develops strong bonds with client personnel, leaving means cutting those ties. Today’s communication and social media technology make it much easier to keep in touch with people, but nothing replaces seeing people in person every day.
Leaving a project should be more about the client than the consultant. It is important to make sure that you leave on good terms and the client is able to function in your absence.
So when a consultant leaves a project, the following tips should be considered.
Make sure the client identifies at least one contact to transfer your knowledge. Ensure that there is one contact person that you meet with to transfer your knowledge. It is best if this person is your replacement and will be fulfilling the same role you filled. It should at least be someone who has some familiarity with the project and will be available after you leave to answer questions anybody at the client may have.
Update the client’s document repository. Make sure to leave behind any documentation that rightfully belongs to the client. If they have a standard repository, whether it’s a proprietary system, SharePoint, or a simple shared drive on their network, copy whatever documents they may need in the future in a logical and appropriate location.
Document the transition. Leave behind a documented summary noting where key documents are stored and the final status of anything left undone. Share this document with any interested parties to ensure everyone has a good idea of the final status of anything you worked on.
Don’t burn bridges. Regardless of the situation around leaving the client, there is nothing to be gained by destroying documents or relationships as you walk out the door. Always take the high road.
Say goodbye. If time allows, make sure to make the rounds and say goodbye to the people you worked with. It’s also nice to send out a short e-mail to anyone you worked with. Tell them that you are moving on, that you’ve enjoyed your time working with them, and leave your contact information. Keep it brief. This is not a forum for emotional goodbyes or to opine on your philosophy of management.
Turn in all equipment, badges, and client property to the appropriate source. If the client gave you a laptop or any equipment to use while you were on-site, make sure to turn it back in to the department that issued it and that they verify that it is in acceptable shape. Turn your badge into the client manager you reported to or to security.
Connect with your client colleagues via LinkedIn. There isn’t a more powerful way of keeping up with people than LinkedIn. This will insure you are accessible to them, and vice versa, for future networking opportunities.
Sometimes a consultant’s roll-off is planned with plenty of time to prepare. In other situations it can be abruptly announced, effective immediately. There is not always time to leave things in perfect order. But doing everything in your power to reduce confusion after you leave will do the greatest good for the client and for your reputation as a consultant and a professional.
Copyright © 2014 Lew Sauder
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
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