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#38: Do You Believe Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I am just finishing up an engagement where the scope grew significantly beyond what was initially specified. I think I managed this well but attribute the scope creep to my client sponsor not giving me a true picture of the company's circumstances. How can I reduce the likelihood this will happen again?

We initially take on faith a prospect's assessment of their need and their expectation of the scope of our services and project outcomes. If this is additional work for an existing client, then your due diligence is relatively easy. If this is a potential new client, then before you sign an engagement letter, it is your responsibility to conduct your due diligence. IMC's Code of Ethics says that "Before accepting any engagement, I will ensure that I have worked with my clients to establish a mutual understanding of the objectives, scope, work plan, and fee arrangements." We are obliged to fully understand, from our own knowledge, not just the assertions of the client, of what the engagement is about.

Clients, even the most perceptive and experienced, present the issues as they see them. Experienced consultants know that the presenting issue is rarely the core issue and that there is often more than "just one issue." Our job is to size up the true issues before we agree on a work plan.

Tip: We always learn as the engagement proceeds, but we need to take the time to investigate the client's company, market and current issues before we sign the engagement letter. Pay for a research report, talk to your colleagues, and ask to talk to client staff.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  engagement management  ethics  meeting preparation  proposals 

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