There are many times I have a solid lead on an engagement that just slips away. Everything seemed to be in place but something goes wrong at the last minute. Is this common?
I can't speak to how common this is among consultants but it certainly happens when most of us pursue a goal, whether it be a business deal, athletic competition (consider the number of athletes who dropped out of the Olympics at the last minute due to injuries or illness), or other objective. We tend to chalk up the wins but dwell on the near misses (or near hits, as the case may be).
Above my desk I have a poster of a painting by Charles Russell called Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan
. It shows a cowboy just after he has shot a bighorn sheep, anticipating a hearty dinner. However, the sheep has fallen off a cliff and is hung up on rocks below. Russell makes his point that sometimes everything can go exactly right, except for a small detail that prevents the outcome you expected. The meal the cowboy assumed he would be eating is now just out of his grasp.
Most of us have had one or more of these happen to us in our careers. A CEO asks us to start work and the Board suddenly decides on a new corporate direction. Our facility modernization consultation is shut down by the client's market dropping off. And so on. Tip:
The print is a constant reminder to not put any engagement on the books until work actually starts and you have a signed letter of agreement in hand. Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan! © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA