Good O/I Consultants Go In and then they Go Out

Good outside/in consultants put the needs of their clients before their own needs.

In a way, being a consultant is a conflict of interest.

If you work solo, it’s either feast or famine. When you have an assignment you cannot do business development so the moment one assignment is complete you are basically out of work. The inner temptation is to prolong the assignment. That is not in the best interest of the client, nor, as I will point out here, in a consultant’s best interest either.

If you are part of a large group of consultants the inner temptation is to piggy-back on colleagues’ assignments. Good consultants avoid client overloading.

Another way to avoid shortchanging a client is to arrive on site prepared. Good consultants arrive with a knowledgebase of the client’s organization  – this avoids the need to leaf through massive amounts of paperwork while on site.

Working tools (software and laptop) are all important for productivity– this applies to on-site tools as well as tools used to generate study reports back at the office.

All of this boils down to efficiency and effectiveness in the context of providing advice and assistance.

I don’t have the inner temptations cited above because I have several businesses to run so I need each assignment to be as short as possible.

Before I go on site to do BPA/BPI, I research the organization (web-site, company mission statement, company history, customers, products/services organizational structure, press releases, white papers, key staff bios). I ask for copies of all forms currently in use, copies of policies and procedures, product/services flyers, the more the merrier, always in digital form for easy import to my project knowledgebase. In the case of material that is not in digital form I try to convert it but some ends up in the Kbase as imaged material.

If “as-is” workflows are available, I replicate these in my mapping environment and arrive on site ready to compile the workflows and do a quick tour by piano-playing the workflows. As steps post, I ask what instructions/forms are needed at each step and I attach these by dragging the appropriate objects out of a ‘bucket’.  Before too long, the bucket is empty or we have a residual list of forms that appear to have no place in the workflow.

The modeling is done on-line in real-time, in front of the stakeholders. Few notes are taken, everything is recorded in the Kbase or on the workflow sheet. And, no scope of work is undertaken on any day that does not result at the end of that day with a workflow that has been compiled, piano-played, refined and has received initial sign off from the client.

Building the “should-be” is, for me, the easy part.  Having gone through the ‘as-is’ discovery phase of the assignment, the stakeholders are now familiar with real-time process mapping so all I need to do is ask “what is first?” followed by “then what?”. The only management control needed for facilitation to keep things moving along and the occasional “why this, instead of that?” The usual outcome is one of the stakeholders wants to take over the mouse and my on-site engagement is about complete.

Back at the office I dictate the study report, let Windows 7 handle the rough transcription and after review/editing I hand it over to marketing for copy/binding and distribution.

The process mapping tools we use in front of clients, by the way, are available to consultants at no charge. 

See “Buy None, Get One Free” at


Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2018 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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One Response to Good O/I Consultants Go In and then they Go Out

  1. Scott Ford says:

    Dry humor is essential to consulting (!)

    I also do my best to “earn the right” before I show up, whether to sell or to consult. Oftentimes the materials are drastically out of date, so that discovery becomes part of the analysis.

    I like your way of finding “unattached forms” – candidates for elimination.

    I will admit to not being able to produce a deep workflow each day of the assignment. I am not that fast. In addition to possible operator apathy and general lackadaisicalness, we might agree that Visio is not quite the tool your software is.

    I am not too afraid to come to the close of an assignment, because there are generally 3 or 4 other major opportunities I learn about as I conduct the analysis for the customer. I used to wait until the very end to share those with the client, now sometimes I will drop hints about 50% of the way through the project, when I have produced some outputs and developed my reputation with them. Sometimes these other gaps are beyond the political power of my champion, sometimes not. I let fate take its course there.

    Thank you for your insightful and humorous blog.


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