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#113: Consultants Spending Too Much Time in the Chateau

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It seems like most of an engagement is consumed meeting with the client and immediate staff. How much time should I spend with my client sponsor compared to time in the field?

The answer depends on the nature of the work. In World War I, a major criticism of generals was that they spent too much time in their chateau and not enough time in the field. They began to understand the theater and plan battles from the perspective of maps and models. Many historians posit that if they had spent more time in the field, they would have understood that weather, ground conditions, logistics and morale were much different than they had presumed. As a consequence, their plans might have been more realistic and effective.

If the scope of your consulting work is focused specifically on field operations and developing strategic, operational or cultural improvements, then much of your time is likely needed in the field. However, even if your work, say, is focused on improving administrative operations at corporate headquarters, you should still plan for and spend time in the field. You will develop a richer perspective, develop contacts and information sources, and perhaps see a part of the organization that your client sponsor may be missing.

Tip: In your project plan, explicitly include time to visit field operations (e.g., district offices, sales reps, plant operations). You don't need to visit every field operation, just enough to give you a solid sense of how they relate to the main office. Ask your client sponsor to make the introductions and accompany you on the trip(s). As appropriate, develop field contacts with which you can work to validate your work products and test out your recommendations. Don't be a chateau general.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  engagement management  planning 

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