As a young consultant, it felt like I had a mountain to climb explaining the problem before ever getting to the solution. After learning from my mistakes and studying several project management methodologies, I can stay objective and lead based on my expertise in my field.
In this article, you'll see my six dos and don'ts when consulting on large projects. These principles work by positioning yourself as a resource. Ideally, your value should come from your experience as a subject matter expert instead of your current understanding of the problem/solution. Let's get into it.
Don't take it personally
Business consultants deal with people's livelihoods. It may be a business owner that asks hard questions or an employee that doesn't yet trust the process. Don't take it personally. As soon as you make it about you, they will too.
Don't commit to a solution before everyone agrees on the problems
Problem solvers are dreamers. Dreamers can look at a problem and imagine a solution. They then test that solution against the situation and potential pitfalls that might come up.
"Dreaming" is a powerful skill to have. But it becomes a hindrance when you take people's concerns as tests against your solution.
Do commit to a solution once finalized
Once a solution is created, everyone agrees, and we're all in. We all have to be committed to this version of the solution.
We've all had this happen. 2 weeks into the project, a new piece of information comes out, and people want to rethink the solution. Dismiss their concern at your peril. Lose buy-in, and you might as well work by yourself. Stamp out helpful preemptive spirits, and you'll get "I told you so."
When someone comes to you with information, they trust you. If you spot an issue, you're on top of things. You are the resource, not your solution. Worst case, you carve out a small part of the solution for the next version. Best-case, you find a better way to help your client.
If possible, commit to the current version and push for what still has value. Thanks to the source of information, you make a better solution and solve the problem like a new project.
Do have the meeting
If you spot something that's causing problems, have the meeting. As a consultant, It's better to have a boring meeting than to call one person out. People understand things differently. If one person is doing it, others might be thinking about it.
Don't try to solve it on the fly
Consultants are usually intelligent and good for you. You probably could solve most people's problems by yourself. The problem is consultants leave once the issues are gone. A quick win might be short-term gratification. You might not be there the next time it comes up.
Don't spend too much time advocating
Employees need things and so do stakeholders. Consultants aren't mediators. We facilitate solutions. Take time to understand the viewpoints of each party and the needs of the entire organization. Done improperly, you might pit people against one another or you.
That's all for now. I hope these ideas are helpful. What about you, have any lessons or stories to share? Post in the comments. I'll post one that didn't turn out so well. Until next time.