In Part 1 of this blog post, I talked about the concept of under promising and over delivering, a concept I believe that originated with Mr. Tom Peters. With all due respect to Mr. Peters, I agree with Alan Weiss, who considers this concept an empty phrase that average consultants like to pontificate about. The gist of Part 1 dealt with this concept from the client’s perspective.
But what about from the consultant’s perspective? Mr. Weiss goes on to say, “And finally, consultants would never grow because they would forever remain within the safe confines created by under promising.”I wish I had read Mr. Weiss’s book much earlier in my career; but I find that as I gain more experience I innately learn such concepts on my own – with my share of mistakes along the way, mind you, but nevertheless I learn.
On one of my Project Management consulting engagements, my client asked me to prepare a detailed funding request for several million dollars to fund a large IT project. Now truth be told, I had never done one of these before. The format for the request was daunting; the analysis which preceded the justification request could take six to twelve months to conduct; and there were always the vagaries of the funding stakeholder to deal with. Unsure of why I was selected for the project, I soon discovered that this particular skill was listed on my resume. No, my resume was not exaggerated. It clearly described my participation as a contributor on a similar project years earlier.
There was no getting out of it. I threw myself into the process and began reading everything I could about what was required, gathering similar documents from other organizations that had already gone through the process, and delegating to as many of my team members as could help me. Oh sure, I had studied present value analysis in an MBA class, but I was able to delegate to a person with a financial background who knew what he was doing. The funding analysis took several months, and the final funding request was several hundred pages long.
To my shock and surprise (which of course a consultant never lets on), the request was accepted in its entirety, with only a few minor clarifications requested by the funding agency. Here’s the lesson for the consultant: as Alan Weiss noted above, I didn’t stay within the safe confines of under promising. I took a prudent risk, did my homework, surrounded myself with people who were smarter than me, and delivered. Period. (Of course, as a good consultant, I immediately updated my resume with the new experience. Since then, I have been awarded three more engagements with similar requirements based on the proven success of this experience.)
About those minor clarifications that we had to provide – it turns out that these funding requests are often heavily marked up by the funding agency or rejected outright, causing significant delays in getting the projects started. Our project didn’t lose a step. And as for the consultant (me), I grew tremendously by not under promising while still over delivering.
1 Weiss, Alan Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice. 1992. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998, p. 52. Print.
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