[PMC Weekly Consulting Insight] A list of questions

Philip Morgan

Quick tophat: The next cohort of The Expertise Incubator will begin January 13, 2020. This small group program is for those who have already specialized. It's a community of practice. We learn by doing. As a group, we face a series of 5 challenges, spending 3 months focusing on a challenge before moving on to the next. The first challenge is daily publishing, and the last one is to formalize some IP you've developed during the program. If you're interested, please hit REPLY and let's talk.

It's 5:45 am right now, and I'm writing today's email to you.

At 7am today, I'm going to speak with a prospective client. A dev shop with between 50 and 100 employees.

They've been working on re-positioning and may need help with that.

Below are the questions I'm going to ask them. Perhaps these questions are helpful to you as well as you think through the specialization question.

  1. Is your work more about change (lots of novelty and/or risk, delayed ROI in order to create significant change) or optimization (less risk, more short-term ROI)?

  2. Where on the "missionary - mercenary" spectrum does your leadership fall?

  3. About risk:

3.a) What is your leadership's emotional relationship to risk?

3.b) What is your business's ability to handle a financial loss?

3.c) What is your relationship to experimentation with your business?

  1. Economics of your current business:

4.a) What is the average and range of client lifetime value?

4.b) What is your cost structure?

4.c) What implications do the above have for 3.c?

  1. What resources do you have at hand?

5.a) What head starts do you have?

5.a.1) What access head start(s) do you have?

5.a.2) What credibility head start(s) do you have?

5.a.3) What expertise head start(s) do you have?

5.b) What ability do you have to generate new opportunity for your firm?

  1. What is your vision for transformation here? In other words, how do you see specializing leading to a more desirable market position for your business?

  2. What has prevented you from making and taking action on this decision thus far?

  3. What do you need but don't currently have in order to make this specialization decision?

Based on answers to these questions, I can help this prospective client understand what support they need to make the specialization decision and start taking action on it.

Maybe they need someone to make a mean face and say "You guys are losers if you don't do this. Just do it already!"

Maybe they need the advice in my book and a little bit of encouragement.

And maybe they really need to pay me for help, where I help them get information they can't easily get themselves, or help them approach the decision with a sensible framework that's much easier for me as an outsider to apply than for them to self-apply.

I'll find out later today.


Don't be afraid to ask clients why they haven't made progress on $THING on their own.

The phrasing of that question is direct ("why" questions always project a bit of a challenging tone), but it's a really helpful question for both you and them.

If they haven't thought about it before, it's critical self-reflection for them. Self-reflection is good.

If they aren't in a position to really answer the question, you'll learn you're talking to an underling rather than a decision maker. Also a good thing.

And if they do know why they haven't made progress on their own, as they answer this question they are outlining their needs in the project. Hopefully they are outlining the needed support in terms of the decision making support they need, which is where you can function as an advisor rather than an implementor.


PS: Regarding that first question -- change vs. optimization consulting -- I've been writing more about that on my Daily Consulting Insight list. I dive into this diagram and what it means for you: