Reporting Status

The goal is to align expectations.

How do you increase the actual and perceived value of your work?

I've summarized some insights from recent research here. At the very fundamental level, you need to fulfill your client's expectations. This means delivering what you promised (on your marketing and work agreement), within the timeframe and budget that you promised.

But we all know this is a lazy goal, and one that won't help you build a healthy brand and reputation over time. A successful consulting service requires delivering great work AND exceeding the client's expectations.

Doing this creates a whole new set of challenges. Morgan Housel wrote,

Expectations move slower than reality on the ground, so a lot of frustration comes from clinging to the trends of past eras.

This is not only true for financial investors, but also for consulting clients. They unconsciously use information from the past to direct expectations. Based on your last communication, they will:

  • Anticipate a certain outcome for the end of the project;
  • Hold a vision in their mind of how and when things will play out;
  • Wait for you to take (or not take) certain actions to ensure success.

If the client gets hugely surprised or unnecessarily worried during the engagement, the consultant has made a poor job of communicating. When you let the distance between the past and the present get too big, client expectations won't be aligned with reality.

That's why good consultants frequently report on the status of their work.

The best way to do that is by using inverted thinking. How do you want your client to feel after the engagement is over? Relieved? Excited? Curious? Encouraged With that in mind, design a way to quickly report progress and get aligned.

In tomorrow's post, I'll list some best practices.

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