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Consultant’s Goals, Risks, and Constraints – Part II

Consulting Service Delivery ArchitectureIn Part I discussed consultant’s goals. I also discussed how the goals can be limited by different factors and constraints and what risk a Consultant can be running while trying to achieve the goals. The gist of the previous post is the list of challenges that consultant should be aware expressed as questions. If you know what challenges to anticipate you can effectively combat without choking.

In this post I will discuss Consultant’s constraints and associated challenges. While you can mitigate risks you cannot avoid constraints. The trick is finding a way to maximizing the constraints.

Refer to the scheme above. There are several factors that affect Consultant’s delivery: his manager who sets utilization, revenue, and customer satisfaction goals, salespeople who forecast sales pipeline and actually sell the service converting it into backlog, Consultant himself who’s limited with his time, ability to influence, knowledge depth and breadth, and responsiveness. These are constraints. It is impossible to not have it. They are there and they have their limitation or capacity that limit the consultant in achieving his goals.

Manager. In my view, manager has primarily two responsibilities:

  • Setting goals
  • Removing obstacles in achieving the goals.

Here are few issues associated with those core tasks:

  • Not setting goals
  • Setting goals that’s hard or impossible to measure
  • Setting unachievable goals
  • Setting goals that are activities vs. goals
  • Inability to remove obstacles
  • Adding more obstacles
  • Introducing other obstacles while removing original ones
  • Unwillingness to confront with the obstacles

To overcome those issues and to maximize the limitations associated with your manager consider finding the answers to the following questions:

  • How to establish a solid communication with my manager about goals I need to achieve?FirtThingsFirst
  • How to set measurable goals?
  • How to set achievable goals?
  • How to distinguish goals and activates?
  • When to escalate to my manager?
  • How to effectively escalate to my manager?
  • How to overcome obstacles without help from my manager?
  • How to say NO to my manager?
  • How to avoid new obstacles being added by my manager?
  • How to make my manager confront with my obstacles?

Time. Time is scarcest resource and it is very limited and limiting one. Time is directly related to Consultant’s primarily goal – Utilization. Time management is a skill Consultant must master first. Here are few core questions you should be seeking answers:

  • How to create my annual timetable?
  • How to create my monthly timetable?
  • How to create my weekly timetable?
  • How to plan my day?
  • How to track my time?
  • How to prioritize my time?
  • How to adjust my timetables based on actual execution?

Pipeline/Backlog. Pipeline is a forecast that salesmen make up based on … many factors. This is their plan for their execution, actual sales. When sale is done it becomes a backlog, a service that could be assigned to a Consultant and it must be delivered. There are several issues related to Pipeline and Backlog that can limit Consultant’s ability to achieve his goals:

  • Pipeline does not have enough services Consultant can deliver
  • Pipeline has services of low chance for actual sale
  • Consultant assigned to a gig he cannot deliver
  • Consulting gig has unclear deliverables

To effectively mitigate those issues consider the following questions:

  • How to help salesmen with leads and opportunities for my area of expertise?
  • How to help salesmen seal the deal for consulting gigs in my are of expertise?
  • How to make sure I am assigned to the gig I can deliver to highest customer satisfaction?
  • How to monitor my backlog to avoid bench time?

Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty Influence. Consultant is outsider. That is why his influence is limited at customer’s. On other hand Consultant is expected to create some sort of change while delivering his service. Making a change is a tough task and requires lots of “soft” skills and the core one is influence without authority. To improve your ability to influence without authority consider the following questions:

  • How to identify decision maker?
  • How to find out “what’s in it for me” for the decision maker?
  • How to speak customer’s language?
  • How to “kill with a borrowed knife”?
  • How to resolve conflict?
  • How to admit failure and go home proudly?

Knowledge. Knowledge is certainly a limiting factor. On one hand a Consultant needs to invest his time as much as possible into billable time maximizing his utilization and bringing money to the practice. On other hand the landscape is changing and new technologies emerge. How to keep up with the ever changing landscape and keep offering knowledgeable current and relevant services? Here are few more questions to consider:

  • How to create my personal KB, knowledge base?
  • How to create a network of experts?
  • How to identify emerging trends work investing learning time?
  • How to get assigned to gigs that grow my knowledge?
  • How to identify and avoid gigs that do not grow my knowledge?
  • How to distill lessons learned into the KB for further reuse?

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5 Comments on "Consultant’s Goals, Risks, and Constraints – Part II"

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  1. J.D. Meier says:

    Good distillations.

    One of the ways my mentor puts the role of the manager to me, is “set the goals and get out of the way.” I like to add, “co-create the goals and get out of the way.”

    One of my early mentors would always say that a key role of the manager is “block and tackle” … meaning clear obstacles and make sure the team can execute on its charter.

    It seems like a no-brainer that all managers would clear that path, yet it’s a common pattern to find a manager actually creating obstacles.

  2. alik levin says:

    Seems like we are in sync wrt to manager constraint 😉

  3. Lew Sauder says:

    This article really identifies the balance required of a consultant. Consultants must make decisions every day whether to focus on what’s best for the client of the firm (they often contradict), focus on sales or delivery, or even when/where to turn for help. Mastering the soft skills of influence without authority is essential for success.
    Lew Sauder, Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (

  4. alik levin says:

    Influence w/o authority is the key skill in consulting – otherwise your consulting advice won’t be used, which in turn would hurt your reputation ton.

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