Project Understanding

A successful consulting outcome depends on an accurate understanding of the project at the beginning of the engagement, and such understanding comes from listening. 

We need to listen to you.  And, more importantly, you need to listen to yourself: What kinds of questions and comments are Board members, Directors, staff, or clients/customers asking or saying about your business or organization?

Consider the following list of questions and statements and see if any of them capture the general topic of what's on your mind and why you're considering consulting and technical assistance services:

  • What other programs and/or products could we offer, and how?
  • How can we save money with some changes to how we do things?
  • I wish I had someone I could bounce ideas off of… someone I could trust to challenge me in a good way.
  • Morale seems low around here.  I wonder how we could develop a stronger, more energized team?
  • This is big and complex.  We could save in the long run if we plan this right the first time.
  • Now that we’ve decided what to do, I need some temporary help to get this initiative implemented.
  • Who do we offer this to, and how do we reach them?
  • Productivity and quality are down… are we sure we’ve got the right people in the right positions?  Do we even have the right positions? 
  • I need the Board to take more ownership and to play a more proactive role, but how do I get them there?  Will they be willing?
  • What does the future hold for us?  How do we all get on the same page?  Where are we going, and what is our focus?
  • There has got to be an easier, more cost effective way to do this!
  • How do we treat customers so that they come back, and refer us to others?
  • There is funding out there, but how do we organize ourselves to apply for it, and who will write the grant?
  • Are we showing our outcomes to our funding partners?
  • Are we investment-worthy?

Before I begin a project, I like to create what I call a Stakeholder Map with my clients.  A Stakeholder Map is a visual representation of all of the stakeholders that interface with the organization, with each relationship characterized so as to understand the situational dynamics (i.e., politics) surrounding the organization.  Perhaps the Stakeholder Map is a simple internal perspective because the project is limited to internal personnel, or sometimes it is large and complex because the organization is launching a major initiative among many collaborative (and not so collaborative) partners.  

I use the Stakeholder Map to facilitate discussion about the situation and project so as to thoroughly understand the undertaking and how different people will be affected and how they might possibly respond.  After all, a project undertaking implies change, and change must be handled the right way concerning all people involved.  And the best way to handle it is to understand peoples' perspectives and needs when it comes to the project at hand.

During the first phases of the project, it is always my goal to ensure that all people understand what is happening, why it is happening, and what the desired outcome is.  Furthermore, I strive to build consensus for the What, the Why, and the Outcome.

In the Model Approach section, you'll see the core methodologies and concepts that I use to guide my consulting and technical assistance efforts on behalf of my clients.

"John has a knack for helping different leaders come together and discuss common challenges or opportunities, and to help them develop and pursue a common vision or purpose.  He's done that on several projects for the community of Hastings."

—Dee Haussler, Director, Hastings Economic Development Corporation

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Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)

The CVB was frustrated with its own lack of vision and sense of purpose. Mr. Ferrone assisted the Board and Directors to examine its current role and to redefine what impact the CVB should have in the community. The result was the creation of a vision and the establishment of milestones...

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