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"I want to be a Fireman when I grow up!": How consulting made me a better overall professi

How can these two occupations possibly be related?

In the consulting world, companies frequently bring you in when they have reached their limit on solutions or resources.

More often than not, you have to hit the ground running, assess the situation quickly, and quickly put together a plan to remediate the issue(s) at hand. You have to be agile and nimble and ready to change direction at any moment, while still keeping the goal in mind.

Frequently you are thrown into situations 'on fire'. You have to quickly ask the right questions of the right people in order to get the right information to craft the right plan of attack. Companies are in crisis mode, so you have to be very clear and not get caught up in the drama they have been living in for x time.

My process:

  1. Keeping a cool head is essential.

  2. What happened? Assess the current situation.

  3. What is the ideal outcome? You need to know what the goal is in order to figure a plan to get there.

  4. Who are the experts? Identify the expertise owner(s) is critical to starting to craft a plan of attack.

  5. Create a plan: There can be a few ways to reach the goal, assess all options with the team to figure out which is most achievable with the resources you have.

  6. Work together: Discount team dysfunction and get the team to rally around the problem at hand instead of persisting the team baggage. Finger pointing is completely irrelevant to solving the issue(s).

  7. Enable the team: As you work with the team, quickly employ your softer skills, praise a task well done, foster learning, teach people best practices. Be an example of a good leader and teach a dysfunctional team how to handle crisis, together.

  8. Postmortem: After the crisis, call the team together and do a synopsis of the situation, without finger pointing. Enable the team to better handle the next fiasco in a more productive way. Make them feel proud to have dealt with the situation, and motivated to better handle crisis in the future.

  9. Always leave the team environment with a positive experience, never demotivate or berate.

In resolving a number of situations like this, you also grow your own skills with each engagement. You have to get up to speed on their issues, environment, team dynamics, technology, etc. Learn all you can, and also teach them how to be successful.

Bear in mind that, in some instances, the management structure could be a contributing factor in the crisis. It is always good to be firm and pragmatic if management tries to start mucking up the already critical situation. Remember that they brought YOU in to fix the situation, not needlessly genuflect to upper management. Be professional. Stay on focus, and they will usually step back and stop exacerbating the situation.

Encourage experimentation but in a pragmatic way.

Foster a 'fail fast' environment in a realistic way.

Teach them how not to fall in the same hole, while showing them how to successfully dig out if it happens again.

Leave them better, in all ways, than when you arrived.

Non sequitur: "Time to make the chimichangas!"

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