Measuring value for clients with clear, tangible results is important. But before measuring anything, we have to be very clear about what we’re trying to solve for. Without asking the right questions, it’s impossible to uncover any value, and measuring? Well, without a clear purpose, that’s simply a waste of time.

Identify the core issue correctly, then measure- there’s real value in that.

The Power of Asking Questions

The most powerful thing I do for any organization is to ask questions. The advantage of having a reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned third party come in is that I get to ask stupid questions and my career is not limited because of it. In other words, I can sit across the table from an executive and ask what he thinks is a dumb question. “Why do we ship those to China?” Well, okay, roll your eyes, get disgusted- then answer my question. I can assure you that I am going to push back on some of the responses. Asking questions is how I find where things are.

Where’s Your Evidence of That?

My favorite question is always “Where’s your evidence of that?” It’s the easiest way to cut through the noise and identify what the true issues are in any organization. I met with a client who thought they needed help with communications between a few departments. But when I asked them for the evidence, we quickly discovered it wasn’t communications at all, but information flow or more accurately, performance management. In this case, I didn’t have to fix communications; My client simply needed to tell people, “Stop doing that or I’m going to fire you.”  Sometimes we get caught up in what we believe to be the cause and lose sight of the real issue.

Identify the Issue First…and then Measure

I provide value by coming in and helping organizations find the real cause behind their problems. But I can’t tell you what value to expect until we identify the issue at the core; then, determining value is easy. Drill down and find the real challenge in the organization–why it’s costing you money or resources. If we look 2 years into the future and everything is fixed, what would be any different? Compare that with where we are now, and the delta is your measurement. Its revenue, profitability, turnover, earnings for a specific division, etc.–they’re all measurable.

While I’m not in the camp that says anything worth managing has to be measurable, I do believe that consulting efforts should be measured. If you’re going to pay an outsider to do something that you don’t have the capability to do in house, it’s almost unethical for a consultant to not measure. You don’t know what they do, and they can’t tell you if they’ve been successful or not without some specific metric.

Asking the right questions is always the path towards finding the real value. In fact, if you have the intellectual curiosity and strength of purpose to ask the right questions in an organization, finding value is a pretty easy process–just make sure it’s measurable.


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