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Part V – Making the most of your strategy consultant

Derek Heiss

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March 23, 2018

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of our Maximizing Your Investment in a Strategy Consultant series.

So far, we have covered:

  1. Why you would hire a Strategy Consultant,
  2. How to know a good strategy engagement when you see one,
  3. How to select the right Strategy Consultant for your organization, and
  4. How and where software meets strategy in a blended offering.

For many organizations, a Strategy Consultant is a true luxury. Inside most organizations, strategic leaders must fight tooth and nail, carve out budget dollars, and gain approvals just to open the discussion around hiring a firm for a project.  Once the decision is made to move forward, enthusiasm and uncertainty hit all at once as you now know you will have the intelligence and resources that you need, but you may be unsure about how to get the most value out of them.

In our experience at Cipher, our best working relationships are typically built with clients who recognize that an environment that will cultivate success for everyone involved is crucial to ensure your strategy consultants are delivering value. 

To position yourself, your team, and your consulting partners for success, we have outlined a set of focus areas, complete with best and worst practices to live by over the course of an engagement.

Focus area

Definition

What to do

What not to do

Goals

Ensure your Strategy Consultants understand your ultimate goal and remain focused on accomplishing that over the course of their project

  • Define a tangible end goal and intermediate milestones
  • Consistently remind team members of the end goal
  • Focus on completeness, rather than objectives
  • Change the scope of work constantly
  • Add ill-defined requirements

Communication

Create open and transparent lines of communication to facilitate consistent alignment and understanding

  • Participate in and/or read touch point meetings and progress updates
  • Provide access to needed contacts, data and additional resources
  • Ask questions and track action items
  • Define ‘swim lanes’ and responsibilities for stakeholder groups
  • Ignore project management mechanisms designed to ensure accountability
  • Disregard requests
  • Provide no admin support
  • Observe progress passively until just prior to deadlines

Execution

Arm your consultant team with your best resources.  They will bring their best, to make sure they are not starved of the what they need to get the job done

  • Stay focused on the core objectives
  • Communicate scope changes early and often
  • Provide access to any info available
  • Team your consultants with your best people
  • Engage your consultants in a myriad of side projects
  • Withhold needed resources and information
  • Assign underperformers to work with consultants to keep them busy

Engagement

Be available, decisive, communicative and hold people accountable to drive towards the desired end result

  • Prepare for group interactions and engagement with work products provided by the consulting team
  • Make critical decisions quickly
  • Hold all stakeholders accountable
  • Recommunicate objectives and requirements throughout the project
  • Become a bottleneck for decisions
  • Take a hands-off approach to ‘see how everything unfolds’
  • Assume everything will work out in the end
  • Be unavailable and unprepared for discussions and decisions

Sponsorship

Champion your consulting team to key stakeholders and decision makers throughout your organization.  Position them as a key part of your formula for success

  • Fail to secure organizational buy-in for a project
  • Pretend your consultants are your secret weapon that few people are aware of
  • Disparage your consultants to your team

For better and for worse, we have seen bits and pieces of all of these behaviors over the course of engagements with clients, and believe that focusing on and contributing to these five core areas in a positive way will yield the best result.  If you have done your homework beforehand and chosen the right consulting team, they will also be aware of the actions required to create an environment for success and will strive to encourage an atmosphere where everyone feels like they are part of a winning formula.


View Now: Competitive Strategy Best Practices

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Derek Heiss
Derek Heiss

Derek Heiss is the Director of Cipher’s Consulting Practice and is specialized in competitive intelligence and market strategy consulting. Cipher is a consulting and technology firm, based in Annapolis, with a 20+ year track record of delivering solutions to the Fortune 500 and Global 1,000.

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