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People or Problems? Your new client focus

Here’s the scenario. You are finishing up on a previous client or you’ve been on the bench for a while.

You’ve now had the call up to start on a new client in the coming weeks and those excited, anticipatory feelings start to surface.

At this point your excitement can be funnelled down to be focused on predominantly one of these two things:

NEW PEOPLE TO KNOW

NEW PROBLEMS TO SOLVE

The expectations at the start of a new client journey are varied.   While everyone comes at it with a slightly different skew,  we found that it all came down to one of those two things – People and Problems.

Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

An analogy would be if you were a mountain climber and joining a team for a major ascent. The top of the mountain is the solution (or goal). When you begin the ascent you may be excited about getting to know the fellow climbers and strengths and weaknesses that will allow you to reach the top successfully.

Alternatively you may be more interested in identifying the best route you need to take to ensure the safest, most efficient passage.

Being an Agile consultant or Agile coach in our industry is not dissimilar.   Although experiences with each client can be completely different, including industry type, team size, and in tenure – we all face the same goal – getting to the top of the mountain. Or – solving the problem we were hired to address.

Of course, we all face universal opportunities (or challenges) when starting with a new client.  Including:

  1. Getting up to speed with the industry
  2. Getting up to speed with the company’s customers and products
  3. Understanding they MAY NOT understand why you are there
  4. Ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding expectations

Our own team’s focus

We were curious about what made our own teams tick to ensure our team’s unconscious bias wasn’t skewing each client’s experience of us.  Our brand and services must be of the highest consistent quality, however our employees are all unique individuals. 

Interestingly, when we asked around our global offices, what they were excited about for their new client journeys – without exception we were able to put their responses into one of those two buckets above. People and Problems.

Have a think for a moment.   Which one do you gravitate towards?   This isn’t an either/or, but rather we all lean into one a little further than the other and will be excited about that prospect at the start of a new client.   

Being self-aware of where you lean, will help ensure that both get the attention they deserve at the start of a new client.

Take for example you are in the ‘NEW PEOPLE TO KNOW’ excitement bucket.   You may spend a lot of time forming relationships with the new teams, and perhaps some focus needs to be more on understanding the industry and unique business problem.   

Or vice versa – perhaps you just want to get right in and understand the industry, the customer, and problem, without spending time with the people, and understanding the nuanced culture of the business that may be preventing the problem being solved.

Neither is right or wrong.   It’s about understanding who you are, to get the best for the client.

Let’s hear from some of our own team, where they lean.

WE’RE ALL HUMAN, AFTER ALL

Caitilin Studdert, one of our principals in Australia says, “It’s always a privilege to join an organisation and meet the talented people working within their teams. Whenever we meet the teams we have an opportunity to listen to the ways we can work alongside them on problems.

I am always enthralled by the knowledge and insights individuals within teams provide, their perspective and their experience. We have an opportunity to walk in their shoes and appreciate the problems they are facing or the huge opportunities they are looking to embrace.

We are fortunate to be in this position frequently but every situation and every scenario is unique. The people we meet inspire me, from the moment the lift door opens on that first day or the first Zoom meeting begins.”

Likewise, Kayla Cartwright, a senior consultant in our US teams says, “My favourite thing about starting with a new client is the opportunity to build relationships, understand their goals, and work with them to change mindsets and behaviours en masse across an organisation in order to achieve these goals. As someone who has worked and lived abroad, I also really enjoy meeting people from all over the world to learn about different cultures (this is also one of the reasons I enjoy our global team at ADAPTOVATE!)” she says.

For a couple of our team on other sides of the world, it’s about the internal team they are going to be working with.   Laura Scott is a project lead in Sydney.   She says she likes the adventure when starting on a new client.  “Working with a new ADAPTOVATE team and learning so much in such a short period of time,” says Laura.

Brooke Pannell, a consultant in our US team, agrees. Brooke says, “I look forward to working with other ADAPTOVATE employees and the opportunity to get to know them better. I enjoy meeting new people in general, so I look forward to meeting our clients. We’ve been lucky to have some fantastically sharp and kind clients which makes the engagements interesting and fun,” she says.

WHILE AGILE IS INDUSTRY AGNOSTIC, THE PROBLEMS ARE ALL UNIQUE

Tiong Yeow Tan, a senior consultant in Singapore says, “Every project with a new client is like a job switch. We have to get up to speed with their industry, context and challenges in the shortest time possible.

I look forward to leveraging on my expertise and experience to support clients, especially in demonstrating that Agile is industry agnostic and can be used to address many of the modern management challenges faced in organisations,” Tiong Yeow says.

Although food always plays a part.  “That aside, exploring the client office pantry always excites me! The pantry really shows the organisation’s personality in some way!” he says.

Yi Jin, a consultant in Melbourne looks forward to unknowns. Including “the steep learning curve and the feeling of accomplishment (although sometimes can be bitter), and always remember it’s part of the learning journey!” she explains.

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

Nathan Nelson is our Managing Director in the US.  He explains, “Starting a new client is something that creates energy and excitement for me, personally. And at this point, I’ve likely worked on 50 or more new client engagements in my career.

The reason is two-fold; 1) We have the opportunity to help solve something that was previously unsolvable (or why would we be there?), and 2) when the change happens with client counterparts that you’ve developed relationships with, it’s supremely gratifying,” he says.

Slav Koziol from our European office feels similarly. “One of the things I’m looking forward to is a chance to solve a business problem with the client. Be it by bringing in a new perspective, facilitating a discussion within a team or applying a structured approach to problem-solving,” he says.

Slav looks forward to co-creating the team missions, defining the scope of MVPs, creating roadmaps and initial team backlogs.  “All these are critical success factors for new teams and dedicating time to get it right at the beginning saves a lot of precious time further down the road,” he says.

“I’m looking forward to changing the mind-set and creating the “a-ha” moments to help the client understand the new ways of working,” Slav explains.

THE EARLY NERVES

Ray Freeman, one of our project team in Los Angeles says, “There is cautious optimism at the start of every new client. The new client may have heard great things about the solution you’re bringing to the table, but still might be skeptical about you as an individual”.

Ray looks forward to this rapport-building stage.  He explains, “It’s all about developing trust and establishing a common understanding.”

In this critical phase, Ray believes it’s important to convey that you have 4 key things:
1. You have the expertise to resolve their challenge.
2. You understand the impact to them and the people they serve.
3. You have a plan and the ability to execute and measure value add.
4. You understand the big picture and where they are heading as an organisation.

Where do you feel you lean?  Are you most excited about the new ideas from new people?  Or more about finding solutions to existing problems?

The next time you start on a client, take time to reflect on where you lean, and ensure that you have both areas in focus. 


ADAPTOVATE would like to thank the ADAPTOVATE contributors to this article:

Kayla Cartwright – senior consultant, US
Ray Freeman – senior consultant, US
Yi Jin – consultant, AU
Slav Koziol – project lead, EU
Nate Nelson – managing director, US
Brooke Pannell – consultant, US
Caitilin Studdert – principal, AU
Laura Scott – project lead, AU
Tiong Yeow Tan – senior consultant, Singapore




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