There are obviously many factors that contribute to the successes and failures of a project. Overall, the natural tendency may be to conclude that a successful project was due to strong consultants, while an unsuccessful project was the result of poorly performing consultants. In my experience, however, the lead client or client team can impact the outcome of a consulting project as much as, if not more than, the consultants.
Do you have any similar experiences?
Part 1: (tips 1 and 2)
Part 2: (tips 3 and 4)
Part 3: (tips 5 and 6)
As a lead client on a project, you are responsible for the project outcomes. Your superiors will hold you accountable for getting results. This means that while project work is being done by consultants, you still have overall responsibility for the work they deliver.
I have seen clients that will use their consultants as their scapegoat. If things go well, there are no issues. But when something does not go according to plan, the consultants become a built-in scapegoat. The client pins the blame on them and aren’t shy about telling everyone about it. They toss the consultants under the bus and then back it up a few times for good measure.
Like it or not, it is your job as the client to ensure your consultants are performing. Staying in tune with project details will help you detect if someone is not living up to performance standards. If someone is underperforming, you should address it early on by revisiting expectations, bringing in new personnel, or even terminating the relationship. If you are using a team of consultants, the lead consultant will hopefully stay out ahead of performance issues on their team. If not, address your concerns with the lead so that they can manage the situation on your behalf.
Take ownership of your project and don’t use your consultants as a scapegoat if problems occur. Playing the blame game will not sit well with your superiors and will ruin your relationship with the consultants, with whom you may have to work again in the future.
During a project things can move at rapid fire pace. Everyone has their head down trying to make the next deadline. Before you know it, the project ends and it’s time for the consultants to move on to their next engagement. That means you, the client, are left to keep this thing moving forward without a crutch to lean on. Oops, did you forget about that part?
All consulting projects should include some form of a transition plan in the project scope. Generally, consultants are good about documenting their work and leaving the documentation behind as part of their transition plan. Here comes the challenge: do you understand what you are getting?
As the client, it is up to you to make sure you’ve thoroughly reviewed the transition documents and understand what will be required of you once the consultants are gone. Ask questions while you have the opportunity. If you’re getting a reference manual the size of the Iliad, ask the consultant to add a summary document or a checklist. If there are electronic files that you’ll need, make sure you have them saved and document what is in each file.
When the dust clears and you’re left standing, make sure you know what to do. You can try calling your consultants and hope they answer. Stupid caller ID.