After 25 years in consulting, one of the foundations of every consulting relationship is the element of trust. While you may buy software based on features and functionality, or you may buy hardware based on performance metrics, you typically select a consulting relationship based on a level of trust. Measuring that “sense” is not always easy and is often the first of many challenges for a project team. How do we select a partner that can best help us to reach our goals? In my experience, there are four tenets of trust that must be achieved in the relationship.
CREDIBILITY – when you talk to a client, the answers you give are credible. If I tell a client I can replace their SAP ERP solution in 6 months, that is likely not a credible statement.
BELIEVABILITY – when you talk to a client, the answers you give are believable. This falls below credible meaning that by default, your answer is not only credible, but also believable. If I tell a client that I am a start-up consulting firm with 2 consultants, telling them that I can replace their SAP ERP system in 18 months may be credible, but not believable.
FEASIBILITY – when you talk to a client, you can paint a picture of a solution that:
is properly supported by a mix of factual information and assumptions that fit within their expectations, and
has a fair chance for success.
If I tell a client I can replace their SAP ERP system in 18 months with a team of 5-7 consultants and can provide a reference confirming that I have “done it before,” the client can begin to see a feasible project. That “feasibility” is further supported by detailing elements of the project like a methodology, a structured approach, an appropriate project plan detailing tasks, a timeline that matches expectations, and a set of assumptions that both parties can meet.
REASONABILITY – when you paint the picture for your client, they can see themselves being successful without “jumping through hoops.” If my feasible plan includes an assumption that my client will put 12 resources on the project and work 60 hours per week, while it may be feasible, it is likely not reasonable. To be reasonable, the client must be able to visualize the solution and view it as having a significant chance for success. It is okay to expect obstacles and hurdles along the way, but you must be able to see yourself being successful or the project (and the approach) may not be reasonable.
Without these 4 tenets firmly in place, trust falls apart and becomes the basis for a contentious project rather than one focused on the teamwork necessary to “get it done.” More important, the trust factor permeates every project, every cross-department initiative, and every IT project. Sometimes the parties are a partnership with a consulting firm. Sometimes it is a partnership with another department. But every project must start with these tenets of trust.
I am fortunate to work for a company that not only understands these tenets, but marries them to a philosophy of “doing the right thing.” Sometimes the hardest message is the one that makes you the most credible, and when you have a foundation of credibility, you can build on that to attain success.