David Maister, the most respected thinker in consulting in the 80s, spent a considerable time looking at the different formats firms could function.
One of his main research questions was: What is the best business model to provide excellent value to clients while producing a significant return (both financial and in terms of personal satisfaction) to owners and employees?
Maister quickly found out that no one strategy fits all firms. Different consultancies can thrive by working in different ways. But he argued there's a group of principles with which almost any firm can devise its own best strategy.
The two key elements that shape the operation, management and organization of every firm are, according to him:
- Its choice of technology: "Technology", in this sense, refers to the particular project operating system or process employed by the firm to do its work; and
- The collective values of the principals: The personal goals and motivation of those who lead the business.
Let's focus on the first one here - how you decide to do the job. Our values shape the way we look at the business and how we choose to manage it, but it's a topic for a longer post.
The approach you take to deliver work for clients might have been made without much thought initially. It's how you have learned to do it, through formal training and/or repeated exposure to projects. But it's also easy to imagine how other consultancies might solve the same problem differently.
Some follow clearly defined processes and methodologies, others rely on experts to provide creative direction. Consultants can work individually, or in teams and departments. Maybe only you and your partners communicate with clients, or you might give some authority to employees and contractors to make critical project decisions.
Of course, how you decide to do the job also depends on the type of problem you are solving. Tomorrow I'll share a useful classification Maister came up with, and that might help you rethink your business model.