What can government employees learn from consultants?

There is a reason why clients pay consulting companies the big bucks – they get results. Here are four things to we can all learn from consultants prior to embarking on a new project:

  • Frame the problem. As it turns out, properly framing a problem is often an overlooked, but critically important step of addressing an issue. The way we frame the question can lead to drastically different outcomes and analyses. By taking a step back before diving into the problem, and really working to define the scope of the ‘ask’ we are able to ensure that the solutions we potentially offer are relevant to our organization and will make our leadership happy.
  • Make the right assumptions. The assumptions that we make at the start of the project shape the outcome of our analysis. We often don’t realize it, but when we address a problem, we make dozens of assumptions that might affect the outcome. For instance, we may be conducting an evaluation of a company’s internal efficiencies, but base our conclusions on the assumption that the marketplace will remain unchanged.
  • Know your audience. There are several methods for learning to shape an analysis for a particular audience, but some of the most important factors to consider include: (1) the nature of our audience (e.g., the CEO vs. members of the company’s board), (2) the pressures and concerns facing our audience (the CFO of the company is going to have a different set of interests and concerns than the CTO), and (3) the expectations of our audience (a twenty four hour turnaround warrants a different analysis than a project with a thirty day turnaround).
  • Know your colleagues. More than likely, someone in your organization or professional network has tackled a problem similar to yours. By drawing on these resources, you ensure that you reach an informed and well considered outcome while staying within budget. A colleague may direct you a prior analysis that she is aware of, or help direct you in the right direction. By knowing who our peers are, we save time.

Going forward, how many projects have you been involved with that could have benefited from taking a few moments to think about these issues? Try to apply these concepts in your day to day work, and see how it might benefit your work product.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Andrew Krzmarzick

Solid points. That fourth point – knowing your colleagues – was one of the big reasons GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler launched this community five years ago. He really saw a great opportunity to provide a platform where government colleagues could help each other with their common challenges.

I look forward to your follow-up post: “What Consultants Can Learn from Government” 🙂

Kim Truong

Elaborating on the first point, framing a problem from a business perspective can be useful, especially when the issue is efficiency. Consultants are also trained to always have a solution when there’s an issue – bringing up new problems without a mitigation strategy will lead to an unsatisfied client. At a previous job, we wrote issue reports with the problem, exec sum, background, risk and recommended solutions. Then the client has all the info in one place to make a decision.