So you made a good impression on your client and he accepted your proposal for the consulting. Now is the time to really start the process of information gathering, selection, and compilation of data and findings that can add value to the customer: the diagnostic phase.
The diagnostic phase, also called discovery phase is one of the seven most important steps in project progress - if not "the" most important of all. Diagnostics allow you to look at an organization and visualize the gaps that exist between current and desired performance.
The objective of the diagnosis is precisely to find out how to achieve the desired performance by identifying the problems faced by the organization in order to plan sustainable solutions. But now, how to make a diagnosis for a consultancy?
What is the diagnostic phase?
Consultants usually spend most of their project time in the design phase. customer diagnostics. Because even if you have an idea than what is happening in the company from what your client spoke at the first meetings, now you really need to dig deeper to find out why is happening.
Generally, the first step in making a diagnosis is through conversations, interviews with employees, as well as through available data that the customer has already compiled and given to illustrate the company's situation.
Secondly, the main objective is to comprehensively and comprehensively understand the client's situation by examining each area of the organization to see which one needs the most attention - and what kind of attention it needs.
How to make the diagnosis?
Even with the new technologies and very sophisticated approaches to data discovery, it is true that the techniques applied by information gathering consultants generally fall into one of the following categories:
- Review of current organizational documents and processes;
- Quantitative analysis of information using statistical tools;
- First-hand observations and impressions through informal stakeholder interviews;
- Formal, more structured interviews with the contractor.
Usually, the result of these steps involves a multitude of spreadsheets, raw or incomplete data, and a very subjective measurement of one's perceptions. Therefore, after this first moment, the consultant will need to filter the information collected. This will require:
- Decide what information is needed, starting with the symptoms of the problems.
- Find out how this information can be collected - and especially with whom;
- Gather this information by conducting a concurrent assessment;
- Interpret and understand information - this is not always as easy as it sounds and may require your client's assistance;
- Identify the priorities that the information collected reveals;
- Identify the causes of problems in the organization;
- Share with the customer and / or team the impressions the information has left.
What are the difficulties in making the diagnosis?
The most difficult part of performing the diagnosis is collecting information directly from stakeholders. This is because, many times, people are afraid of being identified as responsible for the problem rather than simply willing to help with the discovery.
In this case, you need to work to disarm these people in order to create a genuinely open and non-judgmental environment, making it clear that the goal is simply data collection.
Another tricky point is to separate the important from the superfluous. This is often a lengthy - and often frustrating - process. To make things easier, try to find anomalies in the data and try to determine if they are relevant to the problem - and the project - you are studying.
Keep in mind that ultimately consultant work is to delve deep enough to find solutions. Therefore, you will need to make the information speak in order to generate answers to the business problem. This requires a lot of dedication and open and innovative thinking.
How long to allocate to the diagnostic phase?
As commented above, the consultant spends considerable time in the discovery phase. Because, first, you need to find out what project scope - the problem. Then you need to identify the cause and effect of the problem by collecting data. Only then will you be able to determine what needs to be done.
The duration of the diagnosis will depend on the time and resources committed to this data collection, based on the nature of the finding, the availability of informational people and tools, the type of organization being examined, and several other variables. In short, we may be talking about weeks or months.
The fact is that there will rarely be a time when you can claim that the diagnostic process is over. There is always more data to explore, people to consult, strategies to consider.
But the consultant needs to operate with limited data and time. The critical test for an effective diagnosis is to ask whether or not the information already in hand is sufficient to determine the root cause of the problem.
When all data points in the same direction, it is easy to define the root cause. But most of the time we are talking about going through competing ideas and conflicting information.
However, solid, if brief, diagnostic work is able to see differences in perceptions in order to elect a perspective to follow. Therefore, in establishing its schedule and need to separate the time allocated for diagnosis, ask yourself, “What is the reasonable timeframe for gathering sufficient information to determine a root cause?”
How important is the diagnosis?
It can be stated, without risk of error, that it is unethical to make recommendations to be implemented by your customer without thoroughly examining the situation of your company. Focusing on change without having a solid perspective on where you want to go and why can be very detrimental to the organization.
This is because you may be basing your entire strategy on the symptoms of the problems rather than the root causes. In addition, the project may offer an exciting and motivating vision, but one that is completely impossible to achieve.
In guiding change in an organization, the consultant You need to keep in mind that if he is called, it is because the customer already faces significant problems and needs help - not new obstacles. So the importance of diagnosing where to be a customer is now to identify your priorities.
The idea that consulting success depends only on experience and the ability to deliver compelling reports is losing ground. The best consultants, after all, are not those who only recommend solutions but help to institutionalize more effective processes. And for this result to be achieved, accurate and effective diagnostic operation is required.