If you’ve ever worked with a management consultant, you’re probably aware of the “quick win.” Consultants often present quick wins to deliver results early in a large project and rack up points on your organization’s scoreboard. Occasionally, these fast-paced projects don’t amount to much or focus on the wrong things. That’s not to say that fast progress can’t be made on an enterprise project, but it’s important for all parties to understand the anatomy of a good quick win to achieve desired outcomes.
Our previous entry described how management consulting helps you to successfully execute enterprise projects. In this latest edition of our management consulting series, we examine an equally important concept: time spent on strategy up front. You need a consulting partner who will strike a balance between strategy and execution, avoiding “analysis paralysis.” One who takes time to meet with company leadership and boots on the ground to identify a common vision. If those two sides aren’t brought together, what first looked like a quick win could be rendered ineffective, or worse, drag on indefinitely.
Let’s take a look at some of the concepts that make quick wins more effective—and some examples of what not to do.
It sounds obvious, but you need to determine if a goal is truly important and if it can be achieved in the first place. If your consulting partner is starting from the top down, as is the custom at most large firms, they may miss critical, obvious details and doom the future of your quick win in the process. Working with leadership is essential, but without company-wide alignment to a common objective, those good ideas will stay at the top of the command chain.
Before pursuing any perceived quick win, make sure it adds value. And even if it does, ask yourself some tough questions: Is it really a quick win or just a regular win that will take ample time? Do you have the time and staff to do it? Overexcitement can create unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved in a short timeframe by too few people. Evaluate whether your team has the bandwidth to work on the project. You may find that nobody has time to take an hour meeting to kick things off, let alone the two weeks necessary to complete it.
Work Throughout the Organization
A good management consultant with a personal touch will work directly with appropriate individual team members, diving into the details without slowing down the proceedings. Your consultant should be a quick-but-thorough study. Letting the aforementioned analysis paralysis creep in is a surefire way to get stuck and miss out on real value. It’s equally important for the consultant to reconcile what they’re hearing from leadership with the details from boots on the ground. By making sure the entire team is in alignment, the work will yield the desired results.
Quick Win Pitfalls
In addition to knowing what to look for, it’s important to learn from quick wins that didn’t work out. Take for instance a program undertaken by a shipping company that was struggling to consistently fill their shipping containers to capacity. An elaborate series of processes was defined, and a training program was rolled out in an effort to streamline operations. Unfortunately, after it was discovered that containers were still shipping at half capacity, the hundreds of hours spent on process were rendered completely ineffective. The company eventually brought in a consultant, who approached the project with the end in mind and devised a plan to paint a “fill to here” line inside each container. This simple change solved the problem and reduced the number of containers used for shipments by 30%. Had the team put in the up-front thinking to devise the right strategy, a lot of time, effort, and cost would have been saved.
For another example, consider a construction aggregates business that needed to standardize the format of its product delivery tickets. The company sought to create a single type of printed output to support its backend OCR program. The task seemed straightforward enough. The company’s 14 operating companies used as many as four different ticket formats. Why not just create a universal format for all? At first, it appeared that the company was sailing toward a quick win, but it was soon discovered that the team hadn’t budgeted for a necessary printer replacement to support the proposed solution—the “quick win” was not possible. A few extra questions asked by a consultant in the early planning days could have ensured that all boxes were checked.
Not About “If,” But “When”
We have no doubts that your organization is full of capable people who can get the job done; however, they know the job in question takes up all of their time, with few hours left over for enterprise projects. If your team struggles to get a kick-off meeting scheduled, you can bet the project will have trouble getting off the ground. Your team can answer questions and offer guidance, but they can’t always commit to the work that makes quick wins happen. Follow our proposed checklist—and learn from our real-world examples—so that when it comes time to bring in a management consultant, you equip everyone involved with the knowledge to succeed.
BridgeView’s Personal Approach to Management Consulting
Working with consultants can often be a transient and impersonal experience. They hold their clients at arm’s length while looking to take over the world with million-dollar enterprise solutions. There’s a time and a place for this type of approach, but in the remote world of work we now live in, a more personal, collaborative approach yields better outcomes. Let’s get back to thinking big and driving meaningful business results. Reach out to BridgeView today to learn more.