jump to navigation

Scaffolding of Change September 10, 2013

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Quite often during a consulting engagement, a client will question the need for a particular tool or meeting that has been implemented as part of the project.  It might be a new method of data collection, additional paperwork for change management, or a rigorous weekly review of project deliverables.

In some cases, these things are intended to become part of the client’s new way of doing business.  It is what they have paid the consultant to bring to the organization: some change in the way managers make decisions, the way their product is developed and produced, or increased efficiency of the operation.  Quite often however, the ultimate outcome – behavior change – doesn’t depend on any particular form or spreadsheet or meeting.  The specific tool is less relevant than its use in facilitating and catalyzing the desired change.  Indeed, it is merely scaffolding – something that is necessary for construction but nevertheless temporary.

Many clients fail to recognize the time and effort required to construct this scaffolding (and tear it down at the end).  It can be a project in and of itself, but is not the “real work” that they expect to see.  The deliverables of scaffolding – the most visible and tangible of the consultant’s early work on a project – are often frustrating distractions from the true operation.  It is often difficult to perceive the behavior change going on behind the scenes and this can in turn can put the project at risk.

From the consultant’s point of view, it is important to clarify as early as possible what the project will and won’t deliver.  It’s also important to outline the need for some of the tools that will be used during the engagement and specify which will be permanent and which will be temporary.  The client then is obligated to take on some of this “extra work” as their part of the bargain.  They hired the consultant to facilitate organizational change – this won’t occur without the processes more regimented than they were used to before.