How many times have I heard the following conversation in my 30 years of project management consulting?
Consultant: “But you signed off on the requirements.”
Business user: “But I didn’t understand that THIS is how it would work.”
As a longtime consultant myself, I have great difficulty with firms that hold themselves out to be consultants when so little in their actions suggests any kind of consulting acumen. By the way, I forgot to mention that the next sentence out of the consultant’s mouth is:
“If you want it to work that way, we will need a change order.”
Here’s why I get so frustrated with many such consultants. First of all, they hold themselves out as experts; but when the client staff doesn’t understand what they are explaining, they blame the client’s staff. I’m telling you, it is not the client’s fault! Consulting firms have years of experience building systems; whereas the client staff have zero experience. Think about it – that’s why the consulting firm was hired!
So if the client staff doesn’t understand something, it’s not the client’s lack of intelligence. It’s the consultant’s inability to make themselves understood. Often in their quest to meet the deadline and maximize their profit, the consulting team will place higher importance to the deadline over ensuring that the deliverable content is completely understood. Incidentally, in not taking the time to help the client staff understand completely, the client staff in turn is poorly equipped to help the consulting team develop unambiguous and fully complete functional requirements. Is it any wonder that projects fail because of poorly defined requirements?
It is incumbent on the consultant to:
- explain what is required of the client staff such that they completely understand;
- read the faces and body language, and analyze the questions, of the client staff to make sure that what is being described is being understood;
- explain concepts as often as necessary for the client staff to fully understand; and
- go to the whiteboard with pen in hand and draw it out.
An extra few minutes in building up the client’s team, especially early in the project during the requirements definition phase, will save hours, days, and weeks later on. And it will save significant rework.
Where do so many consultants go wrong? It’s in situations like this. True partnership come when the teams work together for the common cause, and not just the deadlines. True success comes when these words are seldom or never heard:
“But I didn’t understand that THIS is how it would work.”
[If you’re looking for an upbeat keynote speaker, an experienced seminar leader, an on-site project management coach, or an expert in project oversight and IV&V, you need look no further. Contact Merv to help guarantee your project delivery success.]
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