The 3 Missing Ingredients In Today’s Projects

 

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Five years ago I wrote a post that was inspired by seeing a lack of courage and tenacity in today’s projects. We have become so risk averse that commodity services & solutions are dominating the marketplace. Commodities by definition make you the same as everyone else. Where is the drive for competitive differentiators and competitive advantages? Where are the bold projects that will change the world?  In absolute safety we have absolute parity and no one ever wins.

I recently heard of a multi-million project that ground to a halt because two major companies couldn’t agree over a process that governed a $75 impact. Why? Not a single person was willing to step outside protocol, methodology or policy, not even a bit, not even for $75. What was a lacking was empowerment to make a battlefield decision. So I want to revise my former post of my “BDMA”  proposed 5 years ago accordingly to include now empowerment as a critical new element.

Today we have lots of methodologies. Lots and lots of them. They give us process, they define artefacts and deliverables, they provide roles and governance and they provide lifetime employment for “gurus” to write bookshelf straining tomes to explain them. For the most part, they are all good and in some other ways they uniformly lack a key component. I respectfully suggest the missing component. It is now newly renamed the Bonaparte-Adams-Drake Methodology Adapter. (BADMA)

BADMA is built on 3 premises from its namesakes.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided.” – Napolean Bonaparte

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen” – Douglas Adams

“There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.”- Francis Drake

For the most part, the adapter injects now three missing components into many of today’s methodologies.

They are:

Courage

To complete a risk analysis, yes but to look very, very closely at the potential impact of that risk should it be realized and to not overstate it. This allows you to think broader and deeper than you did before.

“what if we just scrap that module and start again instead of tinkering with it” . Bonaparte would ask you;” what are the real dangers of just starting again?”. Is it really that heinous? Will it really put you months behind schedule or are you just afraid of taking it on?

Evaluate the time you spend thinking about doing something against the actual effort of doing it and perhaps just throwing it away if it didn’t work.

I recently led a project for a financial services company where some complex business rules for the adjudication were being discussed. We also were to discuss the best choice of business rule engine for the rules to be built in. One of my developers offered an opinion in the meeting. “Why don’t we just do it in BizTalk?” he said. “Why?” asked the client. He said “Well while you were putting the rules on the whiteboard, I coded them. It’s done.” and he demonstrated it. Courage.

Process is good, methodology is good but don’t let it extinguish the spark of innovation and better ideas by being too cautious.

Empowerment

The point of Douglas Adam’s quote ““For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen” is that nothing will ever change unless something acts on it to effect that change. Somebody needs to DO something, to take the initiative and to be the catalyst for change. They need to be empowered to act.

Policies, standards and methodologies are good things. They keep corporations and projects from driving into the ditch. However policies and standards are the products of negotiation and thus by definition they are negotiable. People establish policies and standards so they can prevent bad things from happening. However if everyone knows with absolute certainty that no bad thing will happen and the invocation of that policy or standard is absolutely creating another bad thing to happen, then the people in the battlefield observing this, need the empowerment to make the call, to break policy and be accountable for it. Policies and standards are not created by omniscient beings. They are based around common occurrences and practices. Yet, stuff happens in the battlefield; unexpected, unknown and probably unwanted. Empowerment needs to exist to make the call and act when adherence to the policy is clearly detrimental to all concerned.

Tenacity

“Thoroughly finished” is not just finished. It’s tested, it’s stress tested, it’s performance tested, it’s user tested, it’s documented completely, it’s peer reviewed, it’s got great code quality, it’s something that you want pull out a source listing for 40 years from now and show your grandkids. It’s making that better design work. It proving that the design was better. It’s innovation to just raise the quality bar just one more notch.

Following a process is not just getting a “tick” in the box besides the artefact deliverable. The deliverable if you’re going to do it, needs to have real value. Value to either the next step in the process or value for reference. On some artefacts, people tend to show some tenacity. I have seen some Use Cases that are well-developed, complete and ready for Analysis. But have you ever read a Use case Survey? Yes it’s a key artefact of the Unified Process and if it exists at all in most projects, it is rarely accurate or usable. It is for most, just a “tick” in the deliverable box. What would Francis Drake have to say about it? Make sure it’s thoroughly finished or just get it out of your plan altogether. In a half-baked form it is completely useless for its intended purpose.

Some years ago I was asked to review the architecture and deliverables of a very large integration project that was “in trouble”. Every artefact was checked in, every artefact was dutifully signed off and upon my review, every artefact was woefully incomplete. Including my favourite description of a complex business process in a Use case. I will quote directly:

“Blah

Blah

Blah”

Thoroughly Finished. Tenacity.

 

So how do you plug my adapter into your methodology? Well … that takes courage ,  tenacity and  empowerment. Perhaps then we will start to see IT initiatives that can again change the world.

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Some travel required – why some IT jobs should come with divorce benefits instead of dental benefits

 

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The statistics are staggering that over 50% of marriages end in divorce but what about high-tech travelling consultants’ marriages? 82%. As a traveling IT consultant you are much more likely to get divorced than stay married. That’s just a statistical fact.

If you work in the high-tech consulting industry, finding someone who has not been divorced at least once is quite a feat. What is it about this industry that makes it near impossible to sustain a healthy long term relationship?

Well let’s compare it to a professional field where the marriage statistics just rock. Optometry. Optometrists manage an awesome 4% divorce rate. The absolute lowest in the professional field. Are they simply better people? Not likely…. It is probably their job.

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Attribute

IT Consulting

Optometrist

Travel

Extensive – 50%+

None

Available Hours to be Home Each Week

88 hours

128 hours

Client and Non client engagement not including partner or spouse (Bus. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, entertainment)

14 hours weekly

0 hours

Off-site Seminars and professional development per year

370 hours

40 hours

Flexibility (ability to arrange schedule to family matters)

20%

79%

Stress

High

Low

Hours to Compensate for Stress

6 hours

0 hours

Average Length of Interaction with same Clients/Patients weekly (minutes)

1140 minutes

20 minutes

Opportunities for Intimacy with partner/spouse (weekly)

~3

7+

Personally I made the decision early in my career to be in global consulting. Travelling extensively for 30 years and for over 10 consecutive years, I travelled every week, on the road for 1 or 2 weeks at a time, leaving for a flight on Sunday and flying home again the following Friday night. Sometimes I got back Friday, sometimes Saturday and sometimes I never made it back at all. There is no question that my career benefited from this. I have been very well paid, I have a business track-record and resumé that rocks, I can work anywhere in the world and command high compensation. I told myself that I was doing it for my family, perhaps I was but it came at a terrible cost to them and myself.

I laugh when people ask where I have worked in the world, I tell them and inevitably the comment that follows is “oh, you are so lucky to get to travel like that!” No, not really. The sheer irony of racking up air miles for the opportunity to get back on an aircraft for your vacations is really quite funny. I once donated over 600,000 Delta skymiles, just to get rid of them before they expired.

The optometrist will get to see his or her kids grow up, take their first step, hit their first baseball, play their first recital and ride their first horse. The travelling IT consultants will get to see some of them, but not all and what builds behind each missed opportunity is not recognition that you are providing well for your family but with each missed event another seed of disappointment is planted. All you need now is a stressed parent & partner arriving home after flight delays, lost luggage and routing through Cincinnati with a 7 hour lay-over to bring some dampened spirits to get those seeds of disappointment to grow.

In the past week I have seen two colleagues make polar opposite decisions in this matter. One colleague left our company to take a significant career jump in an overseas job where their family will only be able to reconnect occasionally in-person for some years. Another colleague left our company because the toll the job was taking was too high and they wanted to spend more quality time with their spouse and children. I have a tremendous amount of respect for both of these professionals but what I know with absolute mathematical certainty is that the Optometrist gets to keep their marriage and family intact more often.  If you want that statistical advantage you need to pick jobs that:

  • Give you more available hours to be home each week
  • Allow you to interact with your partner/spouse more than you do with clients
  • Gives you the flexibility to schedule time around family events (school concerts, sports, practices, birthdays, graduations etc.)
  • Keeps stress under control, so you don’t need non-family outlets to control the stress. (healthy or otherwise)
  • Let’s you spend more quality time with your family, than colleagues and clients
  • Let’s you can keep the home fires burning in your love life.

At least you will have a fighting chance.

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Is Technology Making Us Dumber?

 

In Lake Park Wisconsin last week a professional transport truck driver with almost 30 years accident-free experience behind the wheel drove his rig onto a pedestrian path, across two foot bridges and had to be lifted by crane back onto the roadway after collapsing a third. The culprit… he was following his GPS voice instructions.

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He is not alone in his problems with technology. Just ask the FAA.

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Modern flight path management systems on today’s aircraft provide a “moving map” to see the position of the aircraft. The pilot programs the route of flight and then the autopilot can follow the planned route. The use of this technology makes everyone smarter right? No, it actually it creates new challenges that can lead to diminishing of pilot knowledge and skills.

But it’s safe, thoroughly tested on specialized multi-redundant equipment right? Look again closer.

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What happened to the truck driver and happens to today’s pilots, multiple times every week, is that they not only start to implicitly trust the technology they are working with but also can no longer do their basic functions without it. The FAA has implemented a program where they need to actively back down on the reliance on technology in the cockpit with 4 key principles.

· Improved training and flightcrew procedures to improve autoflight mode awareness

  • AKA Know when the computer is in control and what it’s doing for you

· Reducing the number and complexity of autoflight modes from the pilot’s perspective

  • AKA Keep it simple, don’t let it the computer be too much smarter than the pilot

· Highlight and stress that the responsibility for flight path management remains with the pilots at all times.

  • AKA Remember you are actually the pilot not the computer

· Identify appropriate opportunities for manual flight operations

  • AKA Turn it off once in a while and go be a real pilot

http://www.faa.gov/news/fact_sheets/news_story.cfm?newsId=15434

Let’s bring it a little closer to home. …. Are you getting dumber?

Your sister’s birthday is tomorrow. You call your brother-in-law to ask what she would like for her birthday and he tells you. You will go out to the store tomorrow morning and pay by check for it. (she likes expensive things)

A quick test.

· Without looking at your phone what is the phone number of your 3 closest family members or friends? (your sister)

· You are going out to the mall tomorrow, how long would it take you to find tomorrow’s weather if you were not allowed to look at your smart phone or computer?

· Take the price of the item suggested by your brother-in-law and add 14% sales taxes and provide the grand total. You may not use a calculator of any sort. The price is $600.00

· What’s the current balance in your checking account? You may not use the internet.

· Which of the three electronics retailers has the best price for your sister’s present and do they have it in stock? You may not use the internet.

Here is how I would answer those questions.

· I know 1 of 3 sister’s phone numbers because it has not changed in 40 years, long before I had a computer or cell phone so it’s imprinted. The other two sisters, the only place it is stored is in my contacts list on my computers, tablets and phones. Without them or internet access, I would not know them and as they are both out of town so a phone book is not useful (if I had one). What was that number again (areacode) 555-1212?

· If I had to check the weather without internet, I suppose I could check the weather channel. But I discontinued live TV service in favour of internet Netflix etc. Perhaps I would go buy a newspaper if I actually had to know?

· Ah-ha at last something I can do in my head.

  • Price of item. Move decimal 1 place left. That’s 10%
  • Half of that amount again is 5% . Add the 2 together
  • Move the decimal 2 place on the price that’s 1%
  • Subtract that amount from the sub-total of the 2
  • Tada 14% …
  • (but I truly wonder how many people could do it)

The price is $600 (go ahead try it… yes I like my sister apparently)

Now try it again at $961.24 (can you still do it in your head?)

· My chequing account balance would require a trip to an ATM (of my bank only) to get a balance display. If the ATM was out of order and the bank/telephone banking was closed I could guess within $500 likely and be right. But I would not be 100% right.

· To check electronic retailers I would likely need a trip to the garage recycling bin and retrieve unopened flyers for the past few weeks. It is possible the item may be in it, but most likely I would just get an impression about which store normally had better prices. Or I wait until tomorrow and visit all three.

Originally I laughed when I saw the picture of the poor guy’s truck stuck on the pedestrian path, but now I realize it is no laughing matter. We need to leverage technology to make us better and smarter but we need to make sure it is in fact doing just that.

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Some year-end thoughts about collaboration, teamwork and individual contributions

 

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Watch this Video!

On June 11th, 2011 Eric Hassli of the Vancouver Whitecaps scored what has now been called perhaps the best goal in the history of North American major league soccer.  In this game the last ranked Vancouver Whitecaps played against the top ranked Seattle Sounders in what should have been a obvious Sounders victory, but it was not. Why?

Individual Contribution

Does collaboration and teamwork deliver success or does collaboration and teamwork just enable and amplify individual contributions that create success? In other words; can a team actually score a goal or does a team enable its players to score  goals for them? Does this nuance matter? I think it does.

When you look at the video you will note:

  • the ball is already down the field
  • Hassli gets an opportune pass
  • The defenders are occupied by his team mates
  • With great personal skill he executes the shot
  • All four things are required to get the goal

Effective collaboration and teamwork does not mean that every client interaction requires a bevy of best-buddies present. Effective collaboration is where you have the right people interacting with your client and their team is enabling them to do their best possible work for the client and make the team successful.

My checklist for effective teamwork and collaboration for the consulting business.

1) Understand that in the consulting business the client is buying consultants. It seems like an obvious statement but if you do not understand that consultants are not commodities, they are not interchangeable and they bring individual knowledge, experience and track record as their main assets then you have missed the main point of  consulting. There is an “I” in team, you just need to look closely for it.

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2) Surround your consultants with people that amplify their skills and fill the skill gaps where necessary. Be rigorous in protecting your client from people with roles that do not add direct value to the client.

3) Think about the composition of the team from the client’s perspective and keep it client specific. What skills and capabilities does your client need to be successful? That should be the first question when thinking about a team model to serve your client.

4) Incentivize the right team behaviors. Kudos should not be handed out for how many meetings you participate in or the frequency of status updates on social networks. There is a difference between being busy and truly being collaborative. Behaviors that enable the team members to do their very best work for the client (first) and the practice (second) should be recognized and rewarded.

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CEO: Why you should worry more about XP than you did about Y2K

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The Year 2000 came and went without all the horrific events speculated by the prognosticators of doom. Why was that? … It was because; we understood the problem (99-98=1 and 00-99=-99), we knew how to fix it, invested billions of dollars years in advance to fix it and fixed it before it became a problem.

The scale of the XP problem is much worse. Why?

Because few people even understand the problem.

Let’s try an analogy first.

  • You have bought a car in the year 2000. The manufacturer no longer has a warranty and there are no parts suppliers on the planet who make replacement parts for your car or mechanics who know how to fix it.
  • On April 9th, 2014 when you put the key in the ignition, the key locks in place and cannot be removed and the door locks are fixed permanently in the unlocked position. Wherever you park, you can turn the engine off, but cannot remove the key and if you leave your vehicle anyone can get inside, mess with your stuff or steal the car or its contents.
  • You can buy a new car but
    • You have to get your stuff moved from the old car
    • Your favorite cassette tapes all need to be converted to CD or repurchased on digital music streaming.
    • You lose what fuel is left in the tank

With those thoughts in mind, let’s explain 3 things you really need to know about the XP problem.

1) You can’t get hardware anymore.

Today is a special day; the last XP compatible PC rolls off an assembly line at Dell. Every other manufacturer has already stopped making XP compatible machines. What does this mean?

It means that the PC you use to send orders from the ERP system to your factory floor that has been sitting there for over a decade, when it broke before you sent someone to the computer store, they brought another PC back, plugged it in, restored the backup and you were back running again. Now when it breaks, you can’t get a computer to replace it. It stays broken… forever.

2) On April 9th 2014, XP is no longer fully supported by Microsoft at any price.

XP without a doubt was the single largest advance in operating systems ever. One of the reasons for that was that it made building great business applications simple and the operating system would eagerly do things with storage, memory and networking that was previously handled by complex application code. In fact XP was so good at this that it became easy for other programs to take advantage of those same services but for nefarious purposes. Viruses and malware became the bane of XP’s existence making it the most hacked piece of software of all time. On April 9th of 2014, Microsoft will stop supporting XP which means that you will no longer be able to get hardware, driver, firmware change support or fixes at any price. You can purchase critical security fixes from Microsoft but be aware these are only the “Top” priority ones. You are still exposed. Today, you likely don’t even know that you apply 20 or so updates or patches to your XP system every month to keep it healthy. On April 9th, that number goes to zero and your system is immediately exposed to threats.

“But I have Anti-Virus software!”. Sorry. The bad news is that AV software actually relies on operating system functions to do its job. AV software only protects you from viruses that are already known but when (not if) a new virus gets in and exploits the Operating System with no ability to patch the system. It’s game over. You are down, potentially permanently.

3) Well I’ll just move to Windows 8 if that happens.

A few things you need to know.

  • The existing computer may or may not be able to run Windows 8 and may need to be replaced. (CapEx warning)
  • Your XP Application may not run on Windows 8. As I indicated before the new Operating Systems are much more secure than XP. That means that they do not emulate many of XP’s bad habits like being friendly to applications requesting services before they are trusted. There is therefore a probability that an XP version of your application, simply will not run on Windows 8.1. Sometimes there are techniques for getting it to run, but they take remediation time and effort to accomplish. Sometimes there is nothing you can do and the application must be replaced.
  • Some applications you MUST upgrade to run. New versions of applications mean:
    • Business process impact
    • User Training Requirements
    • User Data Migration (excel spreadsheets, access databases etc.)
    • Organizational Change Management
  • You have more installed applications than you think that you actually run your business on. For companies where software installation is not centrally monitored and controlled it is not uncommon to find that users have installed 5-10 applications per year each that are now used daily to support your business. You can’t just ignore them. Some companies have 10’s of thousands of unique applications that were installed without IT department knowledge but do still play a critical part in running the business.

Plan and Budget accordingly, especially for the time required.

The biggest problem with XP is that many people don’t see it as a problem. If your company hasn’t budgeted and is executing on a robust XP remediation program to get you on a supported platform by the spring of next year, it’s time for a new CIO that will make it a priority.

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The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.- The PC

 

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Mark Twain responded with those words to an article published June 1, 1897, in the New York Herald indicating his imminent death. He lived another 13 years. Today there is a lot of press about the death of the PC. The quote is very apropos to discussions of today’s personal computer longevity.

If you had the money would have just one vehicle to drive? I think not.

On a bright summer’s day is there anything better than a convertible sports car with the top down?

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When you need to carry bulky garden items back from Home Depot, or head up a snowy mountain road to the ski resort certainly a 4×4 truck is best.

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Heading out for dinner and a concert with friends, a nice four door sedan is the best fit.

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Riding the road from Port Alberni to Tofino, British Columbia on Vancouver Island’s west coast, it must be done on a touring motorcycle to enjoy it the best.

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Touring North America and wanting overnight stays on the banks of the most beautiful rivers, lakes and oceans, really requires a motorhome for the full effect and maximum fun.

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Suffice it to say, there is no one perfect vehicle. This also applies to computing devices, there is no one perfect computing device. They each have a time, place and context in which they are best used; including the PC.

Let’s take the analogy a bit further.

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In the “go anywhere” class are the tablets. Lightweight, long battery life, great for viewing the scenery and lousy at complex data entry. It’s a sports car. Not great for all weather conditions but it is fun and you can drive it to work occasionally.

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In the “working class” are the classical PC’s. Big engines, high performance, highly versatile, very secure on snowy roads and will carry and do anything with great driver visibility and is intended for maximum productivity.

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In the “executive class” are the laptops. Not as powerful as a regular PC (usually), but intended for both office, on the road and home use. It will never have the panoramic visibility or high speed data entry of its classical PC counterpart but wins on mobility and ease of access.

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In the “Always connected everywhere” class are smartphones. The applications are simpler and more focused to information absorption than production but they have the advantage of instant communications and collaboration anywhere in an ultra-high mobility mode. It does a few things, very, very well in certain settings. It’s a great motorcycle.

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In the “entertainment” class are home entertainment consoles. It is your TV, Game Console, Streamed Music and Movies, Fitness and Health center and Vacation picture display in a box. It does these very unique and very specific activities very, very well but is not intended for you to update an excel spreadsheet with your remote control and has limited usefulness at work. (so far)

Yes there is big growth in both smartphones and tablets. They are great devices but they are also very unlikely to be the only devices a  person uses.

· A Tablet does not have the same form factor or power as a PC and therefore will be less productive for high data interaction scenarios. An employer does not want its employees to be less productive at work.

· A Tablet is not an ideal phone. Its larger form factor makes it difficult to put in your pocket.

· A Smartphone is marginal for information consumption and nearly useless for information production because of its form factor and available power.

· A Laptop provides almost the same productivity as a classical PC but always trades off flexibility and power for mobility.

· None of the other devices provides an integrated entertainment experience like a dedicated entertainment console and if it ever has the input capabilities of a PC, then it has effectively become one. (and this may very well happen)

From an architecture perspective cloud services add more capability and power to higher mobility devices such as Tablets and Smartphones, however the physical engineering of the devices for form factor and input will postpone the demise of the PC for a while yet. Over the next decade voice and other human-machine interfaces will bolster the productivity of the smaller form factor devices but in the interim “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.- The PC”

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What’s wrong with individual success? … A sales lesson from a big cat.

 

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I was born a Hunter. “Ian R. Hunter” if I am being literal but figuratively speaking, I have always been impatient with a farming approach, waiting for things to grow and would much rather just go out and hunt for success. I’ve also never been one for hunting in packs. I prefer to set my strategy, do it by myself and then bring something back to share with others. It has been a very successful approach for me and for the consulting companies I have worked for.

This approach however is sometimes deemed bad behavior in a team-centric organization. In the team world, everyone with revenue generating responsibilities is expected to hunt in packs. You need relationship managers, business development people, sales specialists, technology specialists, solution architects, quality assurance people, sales excellence people, governance people, public relations people, marketing people and of course with all those people involved you need managers too; sales managers, delivery managers, project managers and a project management office. It’s a big pack. It makes a lot of noise as it moves out for the hunt and your intended quarry and other hungry competitive predators can detect it from a very long distance away and worse yet can easily predict the pack’s every move.

However, after years of being told that my “team-player” attitude was sometimes lacking I finally made a very concerted effort to be a role-specific member of the pack this past year. I supported the other pack members, did my part to my best ability and all-in-all … it was not nearly as successful as it should have been. Why is that? Is there perhaps a problem with the pack model? Is it in fact synergistic or in fact does it actually result in a dilution of net sales effort?

I was recently told by one of our sales executives that we should all act more like Cheetahs. Point taken that more speed and agility are required for the hunt, but Cheetah’s have about a 50% catch ratio and also lose another 50% when they do catch their prey to bigger, stronger predators. (and apparently sometimes they are just disinterested… see below)

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So I think the Leopard may actually be a better emulation model for a consulting services sales. The leopard is almost as fast but its higher success in the wild is primarily due to its opportunistic  hunting behavior. It is also intelligent, elusive, stealthy, not very picky about what it hunts and last but not least, solitary.

Opportunistic Hunting Behavior

The leopard does not hunt by going into the wild doing a fixed search pattern looking only for unattended 1 year old antelopes. It looks for opportunity. To be successful at consulting sales do we need more people, more processes, more sales tools, more “packaged” services or do we need perhaps to just ask our clients what the opportunity is to help them? When we ask that basic question it implies that the person asking the question can do two things competently:

· Understand the problem sufficiently well to discern whether or not ( and not may be the correct answer) the consulting organization could add value to the resolution of the problem or challenge

· Understand who from the consulting organization needs to be at the table with the client to elucidate further and to craft any possible proposal that drives true value for the client.

Perhaps the best opportunities originate from client need versus a marketing program?

Intelligent

A leopard was walking the forest one day. He sees a lion heading rapidly in his direction with the obvious intention of a leopard lunch. The leopard thinks, “Boy, I’m in deep trouble now.” Then he noticed some bones on the ground close by, and immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching lion. Just as the lion is about to leap, the leopard exclaims loudly, “Man, that was one delicious lion. I wonder if there are any more around here?” Hearing this the lion halts his attack in mid stride, as a look of terror comes over him, and slinks away into the trees. “Whew”, says the lion. “That was close. That leopard nearly had me.” Meanwhile, a monkey who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the lion. So, off he goes. But the leopard saw him heading after the lion with great speed, and figured that something must be up. The monkey soon catches up with the lion, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the lion. The lion is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here monkey, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving leopard.” Now the leopard sees the lion coming with the monkey on his back, and thinks,” What am I going to do now?” But instead of running, the leopard sits down with his back to his attackers pretending he hasn’t seen them yet.
And just when they get close enough to hear, the leopard says, “Where’s that damn monkey? I just can never trust him. I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another lion, and he’s still not back!!”
You don’t have to be the most powerful but you do have to be smart.

Elusive & Stealthy

Elusive does not imply anything sinister. Elusive simply means that you are difficult to catch. You can be faster than your competitors, you can also be more agile but the point being is that they either don’t know where you are or can’t catch up to you. Stealth again does not imply anything sinister. Stealth means that you are unobtrusive and you don’t make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. The only known natural predator of the (much larger) gorilla is the leopard and that is only possible because of the leopard’s stealth.

Two contrary examples may help explain.

You are responding to a public Request for Proposal (RFP). The process allows you to formally ask questions to the client and the questions and answers are provided to all RFP respondents.

Q: “Would you please tell us if we were to propose an upgrade to your PeopleSoft module X instead of a custom solution if it would be evaluated as compliant to section 12.4”

A: “Yes, it would be deemed compliant”

Now every other respondent knows one of your key strategies, can price it and compete or align with it.

You are engaged in selling a services contract for a competitive replacement of a new portal solution. You ensure that every user and stakeholder has a copy of your detailed business case and proposal for the solution to garner wide and deep support for your solution. However, there a people who are supporters of an upgrade to the current solution who can now provide alternate proposals and know exactly where that counter-proposal needs to be to be less costly.

You have not acted with stealth. It is important to communicate well to your client and is equally important to ensure that your client is working with you to determine what information is being communicated, to whom and when. The best rule of thumb is to take a lesson from the leopard and not make more noise than absolutely necessary.

Fast

For a pack hunt to be successful there is a lot of communication necessary between the members of the pack to keep it focused and coordinated. That takes time and consumes energy, both of which are in very finite supply. While these internal coordination activities take place, the distance between the pack and the intended quarry widens. Into that gap falls opportunity for other predators that are closer or faster, defensive maneuvers or perhaps they just become inaccessible.

A client only considers engaging a consultant when there is explicit business value in doing so and time to value realization will always be a major consideration. What we need to consider is that the time to value realization calculation does not start with the signing of a consulting contract, the calculation starts with the first pre-sales meeting with the client.

The leopard is not the fastest animal, but it is still very fast.

Not very picky

The leopard will not likely ever become an endangered species, unlike a services sales person that sells only a single narrow service to a market that may not need it today or even tomorrow… The leopard understands sustenance comes in many shapes and sizes and depending on the season being flexible in what you hunt can make the difference between vibrant health and starvation.

While it is true that the best margins in consulting are derived from providing a replicated service, specifically one where you have developed reusable IP, process and highly specific skills. It does not mean however that the client needs it. Sometimes the customer’s needs and our preferred services will align but it the overall health of consulting business depends on our ability to exploit the breadth and depth of our consulting resources experience and capabilities to provide business value for what our clients actually need today.

Solitary

When the pursuit is solitary, there is no danger of accidental collision, there is no energy tax from alliance management and there is no excuse for failure. Nothing brings a pursuit into focus better than 100% accountability to bring home dinner or else realize the hunger.

Want to increase sales? The lesson from the big cat is to be opportunistic, be smart, be stealthy, sell what the client wants to buy and don’t have more players involved in the pursuit than you really need.

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