By Christine Brack
Principal, Business Planning Consulting
Our industry is not immune to buzzwords. In fact, there are several dozen tossed around at any given moment. Value proposition has been around for a while. Engagement is a more recent favorite.
Arguably both are important, but maybe not in the ways we immediately think. When things are tough as they are now, we can easily lose sight of the real focus of what we’re doing and why we are doing it. We can become so numbers-driven that utilization trumps creativity, or innovation, or sensibility. We can become so rigid that projects and teams lose their soul. Said less esoterically: They are simply not fun. So how can we make our projects better experiences for us and for our clients? How can we really become experts in our field? How can we really be a team that is driven to succeed? How can we remember what we got into this industry for?
Have a value proposition. Why is this project important for our firm? Why did we go after it? Besides keeping a few bodies busy for a few months, what is it really doing for us? Is it enough to answer, “Because that’s what we do”?
Perhaps this is a new client we’ve always wanted to work with. If it is, that means more than ever we better treat this client like they are gold because it took a lot of marketing and business development effort to get that client. And not only that— we want to make them a client for life and get lots more of their work! Does everyone on the team understand this?
Perhaps this is a client who has been with us from the start and we’re pretty used to the way they do things. They love our work, they love our people, and even if we make mistakes they still love us. These are the clients and projects that we can easily take for granted. But why not push the envelope— even with a client we’ve already won and convinced? We might know this as project managers and principals but our team— the ones that one day will become project managers and the ones who actually work on deliverables— needs to understand that we should always be improving and never settling for efforts that are just good enough.
Perhaps the value proposition is the opportunity to bolster our project portfolio. We’ve wanted to break into a new client segment but our experience isn’t as strong as we’d like it to be. We don’t have enough to prove ourselves but this project might just give us that. We may also be learning something new technically. The truth is we are always learning something and our teams are always gaining expertise but in the flurry, we forget our own skills as a firm.
No matter what the values are that we’re establishing, shouldn’t this project be serving a larger purpose other than to keep us occupied? Even if we know those values, the team needs to be aware of them so they feel part of something important.
Engage the team. When the entire team understands the client’s objectives— the real reasons behind their investment— they design the client’s project. There is less redesign and less disappointment. How often do we just delegate and cut corners on the explanations?
The truth is, the more everyone knows about the client, the better they are able to serve them. Who doesn’t want that? The more the team knows about the larger picture of this project they have been assigned to, the more attached they feel to it, like they are a part of the solution and not just a cog in a machine. Doesn’t that feel empowering? Engagement as a team— not as individuals— returns more strategic thinking. We are all more aware of what this client means to our firm; we are all more aware of the motivations behind their investment; we are all hopefully more tied into the solution and therefore more dedicated— raising the quality of our work.
As a team, we act like the best professional service firm to provide this solution. If we’re not already thinking and acting this way, then why are we not?
Link all the goals. Clients have goals, our firms have goals, and our projects should have goals. Those will be different for each firm, for each client, and likely for each of our projects. Sure we may have been aware of what the client wanted to achieve. We might have a general idea of what our firm’s vision is and we might even take a good guess at what we want out of this new project we’ve landed, but when we really tie all three together, that’s when we’re really enjoying what we do and making a difference.