How do you measure success when finishing up a client project?
“As with all of our clients, success is both tangible and intangible. Of course, hitting the key results that we set out on any engagement is paramount.”Nate Nelson, USA ADAPTOVATE Managing Director
Finishing up with a client after a long tenure can be complicated. There have been so many hard yards put into getting the client to the point of us exiting. It’s often bittersweet. If we have done the job well, we are no longer needed. As well, many friendships and relationships have been forged during the process. We have started to feel attached to the business, the customers, the product.
So, saying goodbye can feel unnatural.
But we like to leave a client that is now ready to build and progress on their own. We look at a number of factors to measure our own success with a client and we want to share with you here four of those areas:
- KPIs: That the organisation’s original brief and KPIs of their project met with success.
- ADDED VALUE: That we delivered value beyond expectations. (The surprise and delight aspect.)
- AGILE MINDSET and SELF-SUFFICIENT: That the organisation’s individuals, teams and leaders have an agile mind, are operating with the agile mindset and are now self-sufficient. (Success, sustained.)
- RELATIONSHIPS & KNOWLEDGE: That our consultants have formed long lasting business and networking relationships within the client.
Slav Koziol in our Europe office states, “The most important thing with every client case is that we solve problems together to deliver value to clients. This is the ultimate goal of every transformation.”
When we are hired, many times, the brief will be hard to define. There will be some occasions when we will reverse brief to ensure that we are working together to understand what is required.
It will come as no surprise to many, that what the client thought they wanted turns out to be quite different than what they need. We help them get to the right starting block of the right race at the beginning. Once we define the actual need, the KPIs are set.
So ensuring we have met those KPIs at the end of our engagement is crucial.
Nate Nelson is our Managing Director in our US office. He says, “As with all of our clients, success is both tangible and intangible. Of course, hitting the key results that we set out on any engagement is paramount.”
Brooke Pannell, a consultant on Nate’s team agrees. “My definition of success is whatever we’ve decided with our client what success for the engagement should be, however I strive to provide value above and beyond that definition,” she says.
When ending with a client, there is a coordinated handoff from externally led support to internally led support. “Success is not waiting until the end but designing what disengagement will look like early on in the engagement,” explains Ray Freeman, a project lead in the US.
2. ADDED VALUE
We will always approach our client’s brief with the ‘and what else’ question. We will always strive to deliver value beyond expectation and it’s that surprise and delight that can be the most stimulating and satisfying. As Brooke said above, providing value above expectations will define success for her.
For Laura Scott, a project lead in Australia, adding value to the client also equals success. She says simply, “Walking away having heard that we have added extra value to the team and the way they work is success.”
Added value can be hard to measure and it can be the intangible that Nate talks about. Often it’s the anecdotal discussions with leadership months on, that can reveal the true added value gained.
We sometimes recommend exit surveys on clients to make sure we are capturing learnings, and we can often find out then that value has been delivered in unexpected ways. (Improved staff morale for example can be an unexpected welcome deliverable.)
3. AGILE MINDSET and SELF-SUFFICIENCY
“I think we have done a good job when we have worked ourselves out of a job,” states Kayla Cartwright, a senior consultant on the US team.
Our company tag line at ADAPTOVATE is Success. Sustained. We want to ensure that all our clients are not only seeing positive results from adopting new agile ways, but also, it’s sustainable into the future without us.
Slav asks these questions, “Are the client teams really going to work differently once we’re gone or not? Have we created a substantial change, and have we made sure it will last?”
Sometimes, teams are tempted to pick and choose the elements of new ways of working. And our experience shows that implementing selected elements is typically not enough.
If a small change is introduced in the system, the system will quickly change it back. Slav explains, “It takes a set of changes implemented in a structured and coordinated way to create a sustainable change.
There’s a reason we call the minimum set of elements to implement new ways of working “non-negotiables” and we help organisations build internal capabilities to sustain the change.” he says.
As Ray says, “Success is when the client has achieved their desired goals and is in a position to self-sustain the new working environment, indefinitely.”
One of our priorities is not only helping clients in addressing their challenges using Agile, but also building up their organisational capability to problem solve with the Agile mindset.
Be Agile, Don’t Do Agile
To guarantee that sustainability, we must ensure that all the individuals, teams and leadership develop that mindset. Think of this: “be agile, don’t do agile”. So part of our role is to help team members understand agile thinking and behaviour and ask them to break old habits. This can sometimes be the biggest breakthrough in being innovative.
“The client feels connected to their work and proud of it,” says Caitilin Studdert, principal in Australia. “It’s never our success, it’s always the team’s success. It’s even better when you bump into a client months after you’ve left, even in a cafe, when they describe that the work we did together was the beginning of something, or a turning point, or a shift for the organisation,” Caitilin explains.
“You regularly leave those interactions so delighted to see your client satisfied with just how far their team has progressed. They are really proud and deservedly so,” she says.
Nate agrees, “Hearing from our clients that we’ve changed the way they work…. or the way they think for the better. That’s music to our ears. That’s what we do.”
“Success to me is when our support to the client organisation decreases over time as they become more self-sufficient,” says Tiong Yeow Tan, a senior consultant from our Singapore office.
4. RELATIONSHIPS AND PERSONAL GROWTH
We believe that if we’ve done the job well, our consultants will leave with strong networks which will impact future business. We of course welcome future engagement from clients on new challenges. Without strong relationships built, you often need to start from the beginning.
Our work is usually mid to very large global organisations. It makes simple business sense to make sure that if a project goes well in one division that we are following through on future opportunities.
“Being a part of this process, seeing the client’s response to the team’s work and engaging in that dialogue to create even better products is exciting,” says Slav. “The ability to clearly see the results of your work is extremely engaging and motivating.”
To Slav, the most successful projects resulted in strong relationships. “They are forged over the duration of the project and based on trust,” he says. “These relationships typically last beyond the project and some of them develop into friendships. And building on that, I guess the ultimate form of appreciation you can get is becoming the go-to person to help solve clients’ business problems in the future as well getting referrals.”
Laura believes the same, telling us, “Building strong business relationships that last beyond a client contract is also a measure of success for me.”
However, it’s not only future business that drives that need. Leaving with strong relationships, means we have a future pool of knowledge we can lean on. We often invite senior leaders from one previous client to speak with a new client, to help set the scene of experience at the leadership level. In fact just recently we welcomed a past leader from a major bank to speak of their experience to our new large retail client. These unique, exclusive opportunities are only possible due to relationships.
An element of building relationships is that our consultants are continuing to learn and grow professionally themselves. Yi Jin, a consultant in Melbourne says success for her is, “That we need to both feel that we have co-created something valuable. The most valuable things for me are the mistakes made, lessons learnt, knowledge gained.”
Brooke agrees. She will ask herself, “Have I experienced any personal/professional growth during this engagement?” as part of her success metric.
Of course, there are more measures of success than stated here (Our internal ROI as an obvious example). However, for us these four areas are pivotal in building the strong business we have.