Are you a new Consultant?

Ah!! if this post has attracted your attention, you are probably new to consulting Gig. You just got your first Gig, you are all charged up to make a difference in the world. All excited to impart the knowledge you collected over years into the world out there.

So far so good, but hey ……… !!!!!

Agile is becoming a norm. Many and many organizations are becoming agile driven either by hiring coaches or agile consultants in order to foster an agile culture by coaching or mentoring their employees who do not have prior experience with Agile.

Consulting is an art and skill which is developed over time. We have heard this statement over and over again Problems or challenges with organizations are same all over.”Though making this statement, we often forget to ask this question to ourselves, “Are the people also same or their behavioral patterns?”.

That’s a burning question. In my experience, humans are a tricky creature. To become a successful consultant, along with the technical and background knowledge, one needs to know, humans behaviors are very important to be understood. You need to be very sensitive to human behaviors and phycology, in order to create a space for doing what you think is right and beneficial for the organization.

Here are some of the tips, I would love to share with the people who are starting on their first gigs.

  • The first rule before taking the first assignment, make sure you are very clear with the client what are their goals, what is expected out of you and how you can help them achieve the goals. We need to assure that client is committed to the change, even if there are challenges and it’s slow.
  • I divide the consulting into three stages. First stage is assessment which is around 1-2 weeks. This happens through networking with the team members, assessing the environment, technical and non-technical metrics. You can have first hand notes and create a mapping sheet as a reference. This mapping would definitely help for the before and after reference, once you exit your client. This is a good exercise to practice for new consultants. With time and experience, this time curve would decrease.
  • Second stage, start focussing on active coaching by identifying the near and long term goals in close collaboration with your client. A golden rule of thumb, there should not be any surprises for the client. This is very important in first few weeks in order to gain a level of trust between both the parties and to create the space i mentioned above. For example, focus on formats for retrospectives and so on. Talk about if you can have certain Lunch and learn sessions once a month in order to foster open communication. Encourage more brown bags and transparent communication.
  • Referring back to point-3, always remember that, the changes are gradual and patience is the key in order to succeed.
  • Golden rule of thumb, it’s okay not to know all answers. You need to guide your client to self awareness and exploring journey. Another important tip would be start regular catchups with your senior peers in order to learn from their experiences. It’s never to bad to ask. “There is no question as stupid”. Just throw a question and hear what people have to say.
  • Golden tip, you need to have a support system, people you can fall back on in order to help you spread the change. It’s very important for you to identify the key decision makers and people with influence in your client organization. Have a very good collaboration with them. It is a gradual process and takes time.
  • Appreciate small wins. This is the key for a bigger change in the mindset, culture or organization.
  • Whenever an important meeting is going to happen in-front of important stake-holders, make sure there are no surprises. Hell ya, trust me, clients don’t like surprises. Always align the agenda with the important stake-holders of what you are going to speak. Not every organization is receptive.
  • Whenever, you have a meeting with a senior stake-holders, always email the understanding of any agreements between both of you. Initially the frequency would be more and it would get better with time as soon as the trust level between the client and yourself develop. It might end completely in the future.
  • Always remember people are resistant to change. It’s a very slow and gradual process. It tests your patience and causes high stress levels. As a consultant, you need to learn to keep your stress levels under control. There would be times where your values and ethics are challenged, but you just gotta go with the flow.
  • As a first time consultant, one is tempted to create sudden positive impacts on the culture of any organization they work with. My biggest realization is that, change is a slow and gradual process.
  • Identify the quick learners in your team and nurture them. It’s very important because these are the people who are gonna spread change across.
  • Actively listen and show empathy with your team.
  • The third and final stage of consulting is sustenance in my opinion. Gradually as time passes, team becomes self reliant and independent. Keep checking on the team weekly how they are progressing, or they need more guidance or strategy.
  • The final step is agile adoption in true sense. Always see that the people you coach are spreading agile awareness across. Armed with new skills, the influencers and motivators within the client’s team are ready to coach others. Initially, they could be paired with an experienced coach, but eventually they will be ready to go solo.

Hope this article helps anyone who is embarking on the new consulting journey. Always remember that, every client is not your client.

“Shit happens. Just inspect and adapt. Learn and move on. That’s the key of successful consulting”

As someone rightly said to me last night

“How to be a successful consultant – Drink a lot of Coffee :)”

Happy learning.

Beenish & Samar

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Beenish Zaidi

Beenish is an experienced Product Manager, Scrum master, and a Savvy technologist based in Australia.

Dreamer | Ambidextrous | Autodidact | Bibliophile | Sapiosexual | Curious

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