The Fundamental Principles Of Consulting: Part II
October 17, 2016
For Part II of this post on the principles of consulting, we’ll be focusing on the two final principles that best embody our values, culture and consulting approach: Collaborative and Diligent.
In describing our collaborative and diligent approach to consulting, we provide a glimpse of what our day-to-day process and work ethic look like. What we learn in the project setup and early phase of the project, within the frame of our adaptive and empathetic approach, informs on the means by which we collaborate and stay productive. Diligence is the foundation and guiding principle for every project and our ability to be adaptive, empathetic and collaborative couldn’t happen without it.
We don’t believe in working in a vacuum. Our clients are our partners and in order to deliver the product your business needs, we want to work closely with our clients in a truly collaborative manner. Our collaborative approach aims to be the following:
- Mutual Expectations
“Collaboration happens when the right players share a strong sweet spot of mutual interest and agree on an apt collaboration method and rules of engagement.”
~ Kare Anderson
We work with our clients to establish the right schedule for collaborative activities such as stand-ups, sprint planning meetings, build demos, design reviews and presentations to leadership. Our tools and processes ensure multiple points of access to our teams and establish a rhythm for meetings, checkpoints and deliveries, meaning accessibility is consistent. Accessibility also means that our clients work with the entire project team, not just the project manager. Our engineers work closely with client engineers, designers with marketing or branding, project managers…well, they’ll be working with everyone! Our goal is to work with collaborative fluidity, not in a vacuum or through a bottleneck.
We believe in transparency, accessibility and collaboration not just because it’s the ethical way to approach a consultant/client relationship, but because it’s critical to the success of the project and helping the client make informed, balanced and responsible decisions regarding their product, project and business. Clients should never feel as though they’re in the dark or caught off guard. This is why we ask for the dedicated use of project tools, which in turn gives the client a view of who’s working on what and where we are regarding progress. Very often, we have multiple potential approaches to developing and designing features and those options may have different impact points to timeline, budget and scope. As we flesh out the project roadmap, feature specs, user stories and designs, we present this information along with an explanation behind our suggested direction. Our transparency and expertise empower clients to confidently own the product’s direction.
In hand with our adaptability and agility, we strive to find the communication management strategy that best serves the project. We start by communicating consistently and often (you might even consider it over-communicating). We take every stand-up, planning meeting and demo as an opportunity to communicate what’s going on in a project, especially when there’s progress. Conducting regular planning and status meetings also provides running opportunities to discuss potential risks, mitigation strategies and alternate approaches to feature development and design.
These principles of collaboration also apply to our clients and establish the mutual expectations that guide each and every project. We expect clients to show up and make decisions. We need them to put in the time to talk through solutions, business context, to follow the processes we establish together and consistently use project tools to keep things moving forward.
We rely on clients to direct the priorities for product development and design every day of the project. Additionally, client acceptance of ongoing delivery ensures that we’re on the right track towards those outcomes for success.
If your company has previous experience with or has shopped the market for a consulting partner, you may already be drawing a distinction between stable|kernel’s consulting principles and those you discern from other consultancies. Critical to delivering on these previously described consulting principles is a focus on diligence and that diligence is embodied in the following:
- Hard work
- Learn and share
- Make no sacrifices on quality
“Ideas do not always come in a flash but by diligent trial-and-error experiments that take time and thought.” — Charles K. Kao
We believe developers and designers who work hard, care about what they are working on and continually improve their skills can create amazing things. stable|kernel provides a foundation for inquisitive talent. That foundation is critical to the work delivered on a client project. We seek out edge cases, technical challenges and red flags with fervor. App development is like chess: you must think several moves ahead. We want your product roadmap to be steps ahead at all times. Spend a day in our office and you’ll see developers and designers not only collaborating but also challenging each other to raise the bar every day. Hard work isn’t about moving towards burn-out; it’s about looking for the difficult problems and investing in solving them each and every time.
Learn and share
Several internal practices and processes that focus on sharing knowledge, skills and lessons learned not only from previous projects and our collective consulting experience but also throughout the current project, are inherent benefits to every project. Every project is another opportunity to take what we learn and service that back into future projects. Some of these internal practices and processes are:
- In Agile Product Management with Scrum, Roman Pichler references a German proverb in summarizing retrospectives: Selbsterkenntnis ist der erste Schritt zur Besserung, which means “Reflection is the first step toward improvement.” Retrospectives provide a product team with an opportunity to discuss how they’re working separately and as a unit, as well as remediate on what’s contributing to the success of the project and what needs to change. In short, retrospectives encourage continuous improvement throughout the project and stable|kernel conducts retrospectives regularly, with the internal team and with clients throughout each project and at the project’s end. Retrospective findings are documented and distributed to all parties and final retrospective findings are included in an overall Project Summary for clients.
- Project Summaries document several important components of every project we take on, including, as mentioned above, retrospective findings, but also technical and UX discoveries that might inform on future projects. We make sure clients understand the ins and outs of 3rd party integrations, libraries and design standards of their product, which can be critical to the longevity and growth of the product.
- At stable|kernel, we have a key professional development component called Lunch and Learn. While it’s an internal, dedicated forum for sharing technical and UX discoveries, lessons from exploratory projects, conference learnings and ongoing consulting skills development, our clients see direct benefits every day from our Lunch and Learns.
Make no sacrifices on quality
We are innovators, creators and problem solvers. We apply forward-thinking expertise to deliver creative design solutions and solid development. Our unique approach allows us to deliver on time without sacrificing quality. Many consultancies kickoff their client engagements by promising quick and cheap delivery. stable|kernel is different. We promise timely, high-quality delivery and we take no shortcuts that would sacrifice a product’s performance, maintainability or user experience. Sacrifices on quality should never be an option when we’re adaptive, empathetic, collaborative and diligent.