This FAQ helps you understand what kind of a person I am, so that you can work effectively with me:
Q: Is there anything I as the client need to do to make the engagement a success?
A: Yes, a consulting engagement is a partnership, and for any partnership to work, both sides need to do their part right. Please see below for specifics.
Q: What's the most important thing for me to be clear about?
A: Your desired outcomes. We can’t reach a destination if we don’t know what it is. Please brainstorm with your colleagues, identify the results you want, and prioritize them.
Q: Do you have an explicit or implicit style of communication?
A: Explicit. If I mean yes, I say yes. If I mean no, I say no. Similarly, I need you to be explicit with me: if you have a concern with what I said, say so — we'll have an open discussion, and reach a decision. Saying no is better than remaining silent because the latter will cause me to feel dismissed and thus check out.
Q: As we work together, what information do I need to share with you?
A: Everything. Tell me what's working well. What keeps you up at night. Tell me problems with the timeline. Tell me personal problems, since they often arise from team issues, which I'll be able to diagnose if you tell me the symptoms. You may not feel comfortable sharing these with your employees (since they may start worrying) or investors (since they may judge you), but we'll create a safe space where we can be vulnerable with each other. Since I've been on the other side of the table myself, I'll understand your situation and help you constructively. I enter every engagement wanting to do the best I can for you and for every other client, but I can't do that if I'm kept at arms' length. One client took four months to open up to me, which only delayed results by four months.
Q: Will I need to change the way I'm running my team?
A: Typically, yes — engineering problems have an underlying cause in management problems. I'll identify these, and you'll need to change. The specifics vary from company to company, but typically, some changes are required.
Q: How would you like me to handle it when you need to make a decision but I'm unsure?
A: Say so — we'll make the decision collaboratively. But please don't feel the need to be decisive and say "yes" when you're unsure, only to change it later, after work has already been planned based on your input, which can't be redone.
Q: I have a concern with you or your team.
A: As we work together, it's natural to have concerns or disagreements. Let's bring them up instead of ignoring them to the point where opinions harden into judgments that are impossible to recover from. Let's also have these conversations in a blameless manner. Blame invites retaliation and poisons the relationship, making it harder to fix the actual problem.
Q: When you ask me to make a decision, when do I need to do so?
A: Immediately. Other decisions will need to be made based on this decision, some things may need to be researched, work needs to be planned, subcontractors' time blocked, and so on. If the first step in this chain is delayed, it will result in slower deliveries from my side.