By Mat Stanley
To put it simply, “quality ÷ price = value”. But, in today’s world of consulting, how much true value do businesses get from their partners? Has a profit-over-purpose mindset skewed what actual value is or has it set the bar to a mediocre level?
If clients are to judge value through the traditional actions and approaches that are taken to deliver it, then they could be forgiven for thinking that the value comes from the deployment of proprietary methodologies and tools which are so often brought to bear. However, client-based studies suggest that the opinion of high value from consulting is derived from elsewhere. A recent survey asked organisations to rate the qualities demonstrated through consulting engagements that had, in their opinion, delivered the highest levels of value. The three factors that scored highest were:
- Responsiveness and flexibility
- The overall speed of delivery
- The overall culture of the firm
These factors are not necessarily measures of quality, but rather descriptions of what they are like to work with.
To summarise it neatly, it’s Bananarama theory which rings true – “It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it, and that’s what gets results”. Whilst this is a convenient ‘tongue in cheek’ sound bite, it really does capture the need for a higher level of customer understanding and interaction to deliver value.
Proprietary consulting methodologies and tools clearly have value in certain circumstances when applied correctly. But all too often I have seen them become anchor points for the deliverable or the engagement; deployed by consultants with limited ‘real-time experience’ in a kind of parrot-fashion. Instead, they should be applied with enough flexibility to support the effort and the main drive of the approach, seeking to constantly align to the ultimate value as agreed with the client.
So, how do you reach this value agreement? Through every interaction; before, during and after the engagement. It’s these superior human emotional and cognitive capabilities that create the ability to illustrate significant value. The balanced deployment of EQ and IQ that underpins great results through regular demonstrations of valued outcomes coupled with the ability to flex and shift priorities in line with the needs of the business.
I believe this is really the heart of value in consulting.
Since joining S&S as Head of Client Engagement & Services, I’ve had my sights set on developing an approach that epitomises this in every interaction, to make sure we don’t miss what real value looks like. A taste of this approach can be seen in the following principles, which we have built and are deploying through our client interactions.
#1 – Our core values are described with verbs and not nouns – values are things that we do, not just what we talk about.
#2 – A recognition that change is constant – so transformation has to be. We build our engagement models around this principle to be highly flexible and deliver rapid chunks of real value.
#3 – We live in a hyper-disrupted world, but very often organisations embark on lengthy transformations that anchor to long-term visions where the context has moved before the outcome is realised. Therefore we aim to:
- Co-create a clear future vision
- Identify a ‘steel thread’ as a focus to build actions that fix problems at the root and deliver immediate visible improvement
- Constantly measure and demonstrate progress
- Deliver tangible value at a minimum of every 90 days
- Re-evaluate context and flex the delivery to ensure aligned value for the next cycle
It’s this level of alignment with our clients, whilst deploying equal measures of IQ & EQ and relentless focus on the demonstrable value, that is making the real difference.