Sometimes, a strategic consultant knows the answer to the client’s dilemma before having all the information. Sometimes, what the client needs to do is obvious and driven by the marketplace. The client is waiting for the “expert” to explain (or verify or prove) the details of the solution, and to build the roadmap to the destination that everyone knows the client must achieve.
The rest is all details — how much will it cost, who are the real competitors, are there other approaches (partnering, acquiring, a different revenue model?) that get us there more easily?
Once, working with a partner who was stuck in the writing of a strategic roadmap, I suggested she begin at the end, move to the beginning, and fill in the rest. I am serious and not trying to be glib. Sometimes the straight path in writing gets in our way and we need to scramble our minds a bit to get moving. Sometimes, writing the end first shows us where our thinking is faulty, and leads us to re-examine the premise and all the steps. Other times it anchors us in our vision of the solution.
I want to share with you the message I recently found, that I had written to her:
“I believe you should write the concluding section first –the end, the results, the conclusion. It can be rough writing, but you should spend your time thinking it all the way through. Don’t worry about the details — whom they might partner with, or advertise with, or acquire, or compete with. Those are details. We know the answer, and do not need the details to lead it to it yet.
“Next, write the beginning – the definition of the client’s current condition in the marketplace (and within the larger organization, if political or internal funding issues apply), and why the client has asked you to help. Define in particular the revenue or margin issues, the financial “teeth” of the condition that made them pay you to find the resolution and build the roadmap. This is the only foundation issue (unless there is a political issue).
“If you will anchor yourself and the writing to the roadmap and recommendations (you know what they will be, so start there), you will have your direction and your goal, and the less interesting and less-necessary parts of the presentation will fall away, or be simply written.
“This approach will focus you, begin to structure your time management of the project, and allow you to prioritize the other sections that need writing. Outsource to a trusted adviser any research or data gathering that is not part of the thinking, concluding and writing. Use the gathered information to think more deeply. That is what you are paid to do, after all.
“Try it. Wing it. See what happens. Don’t resist. It is a good experiment, and may be a good solution:
- Start with: the conclusion, the solution…
- Then go to: the definition of the problem, the challenges facing your client, what they need to know and understand and then decide and execute.
- Later, fill in the competitive analysis, the description of the marketplace, the ratatat-tat of research.