How to ‘purchase’ Coaching\Training\Consulting Services

With over 20 years consulting experience and nearly 30 years in the IT industry, it still amazes me how some companies (both clients and consultants) negotiate and manage their business dealings.   Far too often a ‘one size fits all’ solution is foisted by a consulting firm onto a ‘get the lowest price’ focused client.  Professonally, Silicon Prairie Solutions is a strong advocate that the Agile{Lean coaching\training\consulting industries need to collectively raise the bar.  Collectively, the industry places too much emphasis on certifications and staffing fulfilment that we lose sight of providing real value to our clients.

On the other side of the relationship, far too many businesses look at Agile | Lean coaching\training\consulting as a fungible service where every firm is the same and therefore the smartest think they can do is look for the lowest cost provider.  While controlling costs is absolutely a critical business activity, it can be short sighted when looking for an Agile | Lean partner.  The reason for this is rooted in the facets of the underlying problems and the nature of the consultant-client relationship.

Typically, the clients in these situations have some or all of the following challenges:

  • Different parts of the organization have different skill levels and needs with respect to training and coaching. Some areas may need a lot, others not so much.
  • There are different ‘levels’ of the organization that will need coaching and training. While it would be nice if Agile | Lean principles and practices were a team only endeavour, the managers, leaders and stakeholders at the program and portfolio levels of the organization also require some coaching and training to make any changes sustainable.
  • Every client has a different definition of success. There may be similarities between organizations, but in the end, the true definition of what success looks like is unique.

Since each situation is different (and indeed also ever changing) it’s impossible for a ‘one size fits all solution’ to exist.  Having established that, it’s a fair question for a client consumer to ask, “What should we consider when looking to purchase Agile | Lean coaching\training\consulting services?”  I won’t attempt to provide an exhaustive answer here, but I will provide five things that I think are important to consider.

  • When looking for Agile | Lean services, remember that it is an investment not simply an expense.
    • You need to know:
      • what the problem you are trying to solve is
      • the definition of success for the relationship
      • how will you measure the impact\value of the relationship (money generated, time saved, defects reduced, etc.)
      • how much money and time are you willing to commit to the investment
    • Time and material agreements are better than fixed cost. With a fixed cost agreement, one party usually assume the risk involved (e.g. changes in scope or delivery).  This is usually the consultant and for this they charge a premium.
    • How and when will mutual feedback be managed. This involves having the crucial conversations that exist in every relationship.  Make sure that these are not hidden behind an ineffective dash board or emailed status report.  Again, these artefacts are useful, they just shouldn’t take the place of real collaboration and discussion.
    • What don’t you know that you don’t know? This point is giving a nod to the fact that often organizations are looking to hire expertise that they don’t have.  It stands to reason therefore that the client organization probably has some gaps in their knowledge and understanding of what a solution might be.
    • Most importantly, is the relationship between your organization and the client built on a foundation of mutual respect. All of our successful transformations had one common element between them.  The relationships were based on transparency, trust and mutual respect.  If you have this as the foundation for your working agreements, all of the challenges that arise can be much more effectively managed.

This short list assumes that the traditional factors that are usually considered (competency, experience, references, insurance, etc.) are already established or will be as part of the evaluation process.    It’s a lot more work than simply finding the lowest cost provide, but like any investment, you get out what you put into it.   Please feel free to connect with us if you’d like to learn more.

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