The Five Phases of Consulting: Discovery (2 of 5)

Yesterday we described the foundational process of Initiation. Today we take a look at the forensics of how a consultant uncovers the requirements and methodology for approaching a client’s problem. This is a somewhat more subtle task than the straightforward Initiation. It’s an easy mistake for the consultant to overrun the Discovery and attempt to begin solving the problem immediately. Though sometimes the problem seems so apparent and the process so straightforward, it is a temptation to begin without the dialogue involved in the Discovery step.

The Discovery is really what sets the consultant apart from the line manager, outsourced contractor or temp worker. If outsourcing or staff augmentation is the task at hand, that is a great way to initiate a relationship in a trial run. But that is merely surrogate management – not true consulting. Discovery is where the consultant begins adding value, and there are a few simple ways that the success of Discovery can be measured. In the course of the process, the consultant should demonstrate the skill to be able to answer some thoughtful, planning questions.

  • Who will be involved on the project team?
  • Who is the consultant’s project manager? Who is the clients? Who will be each of their project champions or sponsors?
  • Which methods will be used for analysis and decision to measure the success of the process?
  • What is the knowledge management process to gather data, process information and synthesize information?
  • What are the triple constraints? (i.e. Scope, Schedule, and Budget)
  • Will the process be executed by the consultant or by the client through a scripted process?

In reality, this is the work before the work. It is an uncovering, dialoguing and documenting phase that cannot be overlooked. The hazards of stepping right into Analysis without conducting proper Discovery is lack of buy-in, unchecked scope creep and will ultimately risk the peril of mistrust between client and consultant. In Initiation, the conversation is across the table. The client and consultant are looking eye to eye establishing ground rules and expectations. In Discovery, the conversation moves (figuratively) around the table, dialoguing and discussing to consensus and looking in the same direction.