I recently had a couple of conversation where I was being asked a lot of questions about new business, positioning a company and all that sort of stuff. Of course that type of conversation wanders thru strategic strength, criteria of ‘what you want’ (call the criteria fun, fame, and fortune) and how to grow a business smartly (and a half dozen other topics).
In both cases they were pleased with the conversation and asked if I had a process they could use to help guide the people around them in this discussion.
Bring up one of my pet soapboxes.
Having worked my way thru these issues at least a hundred times … yes … I have a process. In fact I probably have 5 or 6 effective processes. Okay. I probably have a thread of questions that probably need to be answered to effectively reach a conclusion.
Suffice it to say most situations relate to a continuum of “who am I now, where am I now, where do I want to be, how do I want to be seen in the end.” I have seen consultants and positioning experts apply a variety of words and “voodoo” process systems to attack these same questions over and over again.
To me it’s kind of silly to have one process to attack this. Especially if you believe the solution resides within the company itself (or whomever is asking the questions) rather than the answer residing within the consultant (because the answer never is there by the way).
The “process” is typically dictated by the problem that needs to be solved and the personality of who has the issue that needs to be resolved. I will be honest. I don’t really give a shit about my process. I just care about what trick (or tool that inspires the response necessary to get the conversation moving if you feel better worded that way) I have up my sleeve at the moment that will get the person who has the issue to be able to state their problem in a way that they kind of see the solution themselves. Is that process driven? Heck I don’t know. I doubt I do exactly the same every time. And I sure won’t shove “my process” down someone’s throat if it slows us down from finding a solution.
Timing? In general I think week long consulting gigs are nuts. I think if you get the right people in a room and stimulate the right conversation if a consultant can’t isolate the issue in one day he/she isn’t worth a shit as a facilitator or “consultant”. It isn’t some type of voodoo. There aren’t but so many solution vectors available. And most people who look at their problems when you force them to truly strip things down can see the core issue (heck. They are typically smart folk. Sometimes they just get caught up in the fog of politics and random important unimportant things they have to think about.
The right people.
You should get close to the core issue and solutions.
Consultants also drive me a little nuts. Especially how they get paid.
Here is the deal in my eyes.
Initially pay me for my time and the effort I put into it. Cover my expenses. That is it. If the consultant sucks that is all you pay. And that is all the consultant deserves. Even if the consultant in their brilliance believes they have given you brilliance (and you just weren’t brilliant enough to see it) they shouldn’t be rewarded for that. They just weren’t good enough for you to see the brilliance. Don’t pay them anymore then their time and initial effort.
You were happy. Thought there was value. You felt it was time well spent. You may have even found a solution (by the way. No matter what you are told you may not walk out with a usable solution.) Or for a variety of reasons you may get close to “the answer” but just cannot implement it or whatever. But. SEEING the solution was worth it. Pay some more.
You thought it was worthwhile AND you found a usable solution. Pay more. The consultant earned it.
Paying more by getting help implementing.
Sometimes it is good to part company and to walk away then. Implementation can use some outside guidance but I kind of believe you will either get it done as an organization or you won’t. Sure. There are some tricks that can help gain embracing of an idea but bottom line is it takes management fortitude to win the day not organizational alignment tricks (tools).
Sometimes great consultants are like “hit men.”
Their strength is focus and solution for the issue. And I admit I also like to offer up a couple of methods to implement a solution (usually right when the solution is discussed). But I am probably better served walking away and maybe coming back in a year and talking with the same group about “the solution” and how it is going.
In other words continue to maximize the strength of “stepping in, assessing, and offering a solution.”
But, hey, that’s my opinion.