Helping a client get to where they want to go may be different than where you think they should go.
Consider the following: Your company has an outstanding reputation in the industry in which it operates. And folks who work at this company are considered to be some of the best and brightest. Personally, you are a highly educated, experienced professional in your field and one of the top in your company. A potential client contacted your company to explore a project idea they have in mind and you are tapped to vet the opportunity.
Your responsibility is to understand what the client wants and explore whether your company should pursue this opportunity.
For the purposes of this article, a client is anyone to whom you are to provide a product or service; whether internal or external to your company. Additionally, for this article, value is defined as value proposition, one or more desired outcomes; or otherwise stated, getting the client from where they are to where they want to be.
After listening to the client discuss where they believe they are, where they want to go, and their overall definition of done, you find yourself in an interesting position. From your experienced perspective, the definition of done is way-point #10 illustrated below. Based upon what you believe you're hearing from the client, their definition of done is way-point #4.
You both may be right. However, if your job is to serve the client and help them realize their vision for themselves, the client is right.
Rather than debating the merits of what you believe you know compared to what the client believes they want, meet them where they are.
Consider putting your predisposition(s) to the side and actively listening, learning, and discovering together. Given you've already seen way-point #4 on your way to #10 multiple times, you are equipped to counsel the client on options, priorities, risks, and decisions along the journey.
Get the client to way-point #4 as they desire. And while you're working with them, you may discover they didn't know about #10, didn't believe they could get there, or #4 is actually what they need for now.
Consider the below steps to iteratively discover what is valuable to the client now, soon, and later.
What is described below is a purposeful partnership relationship between two parties where discovered and defined value drives decisions. It is a journey composed of goals, options, choices, and the ability to pivot, change, or otherwise re-scope along the way as more information is learned.
If you are not sure where to start, consider starting with the below three behaviors and the rest will follow:
Ask thoughtful, premeditated questions in order to learn. Clarify what you think you heard, then ask more questions to learn more. Favor questions over statements.
Practice committing to and delivering frequent, small, iterations of the larger planned deliverable across time. Do not agree to an outcome, disappear for awhile, work in a vacuum, assume nothing changed while you were gone, and return with what you believed was important two months ago. You'll both be surprised (and perhaps disappointed).
Frequent, small, iterative deliverables inform the client's understanding of their reality and future. If your job is to help your client become more today than yesterday, then invite, and be prepared for, change as they learn and realize more with each small, iterative, deliverable.
Having a business, client, and revenue is a continuously earned privilege. To be the best at what you do, there will be no rest. Relationships, communication, and delivering value are hard. This article can help you tune your existing program of behavior, or even help you get started.
If your teams struggle to pivot and adapt to changes, read my next article, Of Jellybeans and Elephants, which provides a path and new behaviors for your team to adopt and deliver value one jellybean at a time.