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Working From the Front

Working From the Front

I was sitting in the truck whiling away my time as my wife shopped for flowers to plant. We have six acres, and we’re running out of planting room. But that’s another story.

It was too hot for the dogs to be with us, so I was taking in the surroundings, and became fascinated, as usual by the strange equipment and vehicles the nursery had on hand. (My son and I once laid plans to steal an asphalt reclamation machine at night and drive it for a hundred feet, and I’m constantly offering the fire chief here a chance to drive the Bentley if I can drive the pumper or aerial truck, so far to no avail.)

One of the nursery’s gorgeously gorgonesque machines was ingenious. It was a loader (technically a New Holland skid steer loader, which my technical genius team should be reproducing here somewhere) designed to operate in tiny spaces. The only way to get the front shovel to lift high enough was to put the other end of the mechanism all the way in the rear, and place the driver up front just behind the shovel! The action was right in front of the driver, but the power was way behind, with the driver in the midst of the action.

This innovative design struck me as wondrous, and I began to think of how it could be applied to my work, and what I teach, and how I coach. And then it hit me.

Many of you have trouble coordinating projects. Some of you actually tell me that you have too much work (no discretionary time, hence, no real wealth). Others have (GASP!!) turned down business.

So here’s the remedy for your healthy work loads: Work from the front. Have the client do a lot of the heavy lifting from the rear, before you even lift the shovel. In other words, set up your projects so that they are officially underway while the client sets the stage and the culture, and you don’t have to show up until much later, when your schedule permits. Examples of what the client can do early while paying you:

• Create schedules for interventions such as focus groups.
• Assemble a steering committee or stakeholder team.
• Develop documentation and historical information.
• Perform an internal survey.
• Request client’s customers’ approval of their involvement.
• Choose a pilot or starting area.
• Inform and involve key employees, management, board.
• Create liaison and involvement with unions.
• Have your subcontractors visit and observe.

After this work has begun and produced results, you can begin your direct involvement, site visits, or whatever. There’s no reason why you have to be available and on site from the time the proposal is signed.

Keep the power behind you. You do the steering.

© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 1

  • Joseph Ratliff

    July 7, 2010


    Such powerful, yet simple advice.

    This post is the answer to the question:

    “How can I better organize my time and energies within my consulting practice right now, with little more effort?”

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