Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Acting like a consultant

This week-end I had a small verbal slap on the knuckles reminder that acting like a programmer is not sufficient to be a good consultant. It is difficult for some of us to come up from the sea of hardware and software and breath, and in the meantime people can feel abandoned or ignored.

Truth is, my boldness comes in fits and starts, and it is difficult for me to maintain constant communication with my network. It is complicated by my personality, but it isn't
who I am
, it is rather a skill that, in practice, I haven't mastered.

On the other hand, I find that it terribly distracting to be thinking about who I need to contact, keep their particulars in my head, and think proactively about their situations. I have to block the social aspects out of my mind while I'm programming, otherwise everything blurs.

Thinking like a consultant has other differences from programming in the raw:
  • Strategic thinking versus an "order taking" mentality
  • Dialog versus top-down communications
  • Probing for needs versus accepting plans as communicated
  • Asking questions to build a strategic understanding instead of focusing on tactical steps
  • Build a working context of the client's business: how they generate income; how they differentiate themselves from competition; industry shifts; customer and employee issues; the problems at hand and the client's objectives
  • Leading the discussion and influencing it to set expectations
  • Keeping the dialog going (this is a pain point for us programming types!)

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