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  • Writer's picturegvalyou

From Destination to Journey: The Consulting Paradigm of Value and Efficiency

Over the years, as a consultant, executive, or partner running several consulting companies, I have had the privilege of helping some amazing clients reach their goals. This truly is a rewarding experience for me and, hopefully, for them. It is what I do, and I really like doing it!

To stay focused, adapt to a changing marketplace, and ensure I provide what my clients value, a few times a year, I ask myself, “What are the top ten things that matter most to my clients in the services I provide?” Of course, I ask my clients a similar question when I hold business reviews, check-in, or at the end of an engagement.

Interestingly, if I look back at my lists over the years, the top items have mostly stayed the same.

When I first started doing this exercise, I expected to uncover some business-changing new insights related to business, economic, political, social, and technological changes, fads, and trends. These are present and very important to ensure relevancy with the current business landscape, but never at the top of the list. These stay near the middle and bottom of the list and come and go as the calendar marches forward.

The most interesting findings relate to the consistent items at the top of the list:

1. “Clients want a result that has or produces measurable value,”

2. “Clients want the result delivered as quickly as possible,” and

3. “Clients want original ideas,”

4. “Clients want honesty and integrity.”

Although these are obvious statements and honesty and integrity should be a given, they are not always to achieve, or clients would do it on their own. Meeting client expectations by delivering value as quickly as possible requires a laser-sharp focus on agreed-upon success criteria supported by the fasted path to get there.

I like reading classic literature. It is a welcome change of pace from today’s hyper-social world, allowing us to think, laugh, and learn at a different pace. Many of us have heard or read the famous quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “It's not the destination, it's the journey.” Or a similar quote by T.S. Eliot, “The journey, not the destination, matters.” Where am I going with this besides doing my best to weave classic literature into an article about consulting? Their quotes highlight an essential lesson in consulting success. Both are brilliant, thought-provoking, and well-renowned literary giants, poets, and thinkers. Unfortunately, they were not consultants searching for a targeted result in the shortest time for their clients.

Businesses hire consultants for the unique value they can bring, “the destination.” While “the journey” and all that may go into it, including the strategy, analysis, hypothesis, planning, people, and execution, matter. The new idea, affirmation, strategy, or solution that improves their business is what clients are paying for. They want the result, and they want it fast!

If you are trying to solve a problem or achieve a result, think about the destination and work backward towards the start.

The act of asking questions, clarifying, and coming to a clear understanding and agreement on what a successful result would look like can be challenging. Clients often don’t know what they want. They especially don’t like spending time or money and not reaching the outcome they expect or one of value. A little extra time thinking about, confirming, and agreeing on the goal can help avoid wasting time and money and not ending up where you want to be. It also makes it easier and faster to determine and apply the optimal framework, milestones, and steps.

Emerson and Waldo were half right. The journey and how you go about it is essential, but if you are trying to solve a problem or reach a goal, you should know where you are going or how you will know when you have reached your destination. As a consultant, isn’t client success the objective? Please ensure you know the right destination before you begin the journey. Your clients will thank you for it.

Cover image, Microsoft Photos, September 8, 2023

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