A brief note from my consulting experience over the last while. It’s an obvious point. But, like many obvious points, it bears some repetition.
Much is rightly made of senior stakeholder relationships in consulting phases of projects and in consulting roles. Seeing the landscape map as senior decision makers see it is vital to your orientation. Senior folks are often better rehearsed at saying what they think and bring a confidence to their articulation – they expect and are used to being listened to. So, managing stakeholder conversation well is a vital input.
The map your senior contacts draw is clear. The risk is that the route to the destination is too clear. Pitfalls and impediments are hidden, or simply not plotted because they are genuinely unseen. Despite the confidence, senior stakeholders do not know everything you need to know as a useful consultant. They can’t see the mess on the ground from up there.
You need to travel further to the coalface and converse with the GSDs – the people who “get s@#t done”. These people have irreplaceable expertise and insight. They can help you see through and beyond briefing decks and onboarding packs. They can tell you what the manual can’t. They have the superpower to bring your recommendations to life and make PowerPoint work in reality.
In my experience (no, this is not science), these are people of longer tenure in a team or business unit. They often started in junior roles and have accrued expertise through experience of getting their S@#t done. This background is coupled with a strong preference to remain in a role which focuses efforts on producing and outcomes. Or, what the senior stakeholders might call ‘operationalising plans’. Operational expertise is often not valued as much a strategic insight. This is a wearisome mistake. Additional responsibilities and spans of control are probably not a reward for the GSD, so they risk not being called to the senior common room. This is a shame and also a mistake.
The kinds of insights the GSD can offer include:
- Knowledge of what customers actually mean
- Knowledge of what users really do – with the data to describe it
- The workarounds that make systems actually work
- How long things really take and who gets them done
- What happened last time we tried that
- What senior stakeholder number 1 really means
- Why that bright idea is actually expensive/beyond our capabilities/not really what customers want etc.
- And best til last: who to talk to next…
Long live the GSD.