Walker’s Rules of Consulting

Almost 20 years ago I had just started at Lante and the Senior Consultant I was working under gave me a slightly tattered document and said “read this”.  I did, and still have that same 7 page Walkers Rules of Consulting in my files.  Once every few years I’d pull it out and give brown bag seminars under the guise Consulting 101.  Most large consultancies and agencies these days have big boot-camps and training lessons as to what you should and shouldn’t do as a consultant, but this simple document is still really all you need, ethics and good business sense.

I break one of the rules by publishing it here, but  it is now time to help impart nuggets of wisdom on the world.  And if you are employing a consultant or are a consultant (IT, business, marketing, you name it) yourself get to know these rules.   If you are employing a consultant, hold them to these.  If you are a consultant, simply follow them.  If you are an employee of a company, many of these rules will help you be successful.

After a little research I now know who Walker and Kaprelian are.  They were two of  the founders of Technology Solutions Company which was founded in or around 1988 and IPO’d in 1991.  As always, give credit where credit is due.

 

WALKER’S RULES OF CONSULTING

Rod Walker

January 26, 1990

May 17,1990

Kaprelian’s Rule on Where Not To Leave This Document:

  • These documents have been numbered, counted, and encrypted with an invisible code to identify the owner. If it is found we will know whose it was. Don’t leave this laying around where others can read it.

 

Walker’s First Rule Of Project Management:

  • If you think everything is going well, you’re out of touch.

Corollary #1:    Projects don’t run themselves

Corollary #2:     Most of your direct reports don’t share your vision of the answer

Corollary #3:    If you don’t have a vision of the answer, you’re in deep _ (i.e trouble)

 

Walker’s Rule On Always Having The Only Right Answer:

  • Arrogance will always come back to bite you.
  • Yes. Charlie, publishing your own rules is a form of arrogance

 

Walker’s Rules On Participating In Meetings:

  • Be on time.
  • For God’s sake don’t interrupt other people while they are speaking; particularly the President of our multi-million dollar client.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation Be on time.
  • Learn to listen (parse the sentence, analyze the words, apply the and/or logic, etc.)
  • Understand, completely understand, the question before you answer it.
  • If you are doing more than your share of the talking, then shut up and listen to what others have to say.
  • You don’t have to answer every question; there are other people in the room. Be on time.
  • You don’t have to be the first person to answer the question, even if you know the answer.
  • Focus on the purpose of the meeting, don’t dwell on things which aren’t on the critical path to ending the meeting.
  • Whenever possible distribute written agendas when scheduling meetings. That way every one who will be present has a clear understanding of the purpose of the meeting and can prepare appropriately. The meetings will tend to have beginnings, endings, and an objective of what is to be accomplished.
  • Be on time.
  • During the course of a meeting action items will come up. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of who is to do what when the meeting ends. This can sometimes be tricky as you cannot delegate others time all the time.

 

Walker’s Rules On The Importance Of Good Writing:

  • Most client personnel see the results of most of our work in the form of documents.
  • Always have your printed material reviewed by your project manager before it is distributed to the client. It will then be reviewed by our client before it is released for general distribution.
  • Another reason for having your material reviewed is that we maintain a central library of working papers, status reports, and milestone, deliverables, etc. If we don’t clear all material through a central source we won’t have the master library.
  • Always, always, always take the trouble to spell names correctly; a misspelled name is almost as bad as pronouncing it wrong.
  • Establish a distribution list prior to releasing anything. People that don’t receive reports and working papers are potentially threatened and may work against you in the future.
  • The impression our documents give is the impression people form of us and how good we are.
  • The purpose of documents is to communicate! Documents that don’t communicate clearly quickly call into question our abilities and the reasons for our participation. Every piece of paper we give someone has an impact, one way or the other. Make sure yours has the right impact.
  • Cover pages, dates, and page numbers are mandatory.
  • Now that we’ve invested in computers and word processors, at least use the spell check function and fix the obvious garbage.
  • Never never distribute any material that has anything to do with TSC rates or expenses to anyone without prior approval of your project manager.

 

Walker’s Rules On What Constitutes Your Success:

  • Getting the system up or a deliverable approved is a necessary, but not sufficient condition.
  • Next question is whether the client will want to hire you again. What would the client people (no matter how junior) you work with recommend? Are they saying complimentary things about you to their management? If the answer is no, you probably won’t get a raise that you like. There is another subtle message here, see if you can guess what it is.

 

Walker’s First Rule of Client Relations: Your job is to get your client counterpart promoted.

  • Even if you think the person is a stupid turkey and/or a royal pain
  • Focus first on his promotion, then yours
  • Usually yours will follow, if he gets his

 

Walker’s Second Rule of Client Relations:

  • It’s hard to get your counterpart promoted if you don’t have a good relationship with him.
  • Get to know him/her.
  • Work with him/her.
  • Take him/her to lunch or dinner.
  • Cause him to believe you are there helping him/her, not working against or around him/her.
  • Don’t say derogatory things about him/her to their management, peers, or subordinates. If you can’t think of something good to say, try nothing.
  • Make him/her want more of your help, not less.
  • Make those skeptics understand that consultants can be worth as much or more than his company pays for them.
  • Get in bed with him/her, figuratively, but never literally.

 

Walker’s Third Rule of Client Relations: Don’t tell client personnel things about our relationship that have to do with what we charge them, unless it’s part of our contract related discussions.

  • E.g. don’t chat about how much money you’re saving by traveling and giving up your apartment at home.
  • E.g. don’t talk how big or small your raise was.
  • E.G. don’t talk about all the airline miles and hotel points you are accumulating for free vacations in exotic places.

 

Walker’s Fourth Rule Of Client Relations:

  • If you think the guy is a turkey, sooner or later he will figure out what you are thinking and then you are in trouble.
  • So figure out how to enjoy working with the person, both of your careers (at least in the near term) depend on it.
  • Seldom, if ever, is it ok to piss off any client person (or a TSC person for that matter). Most of the time that people rationalize that it was ok to do it, they were wrong and you will be, too.
  • Be a diplomat; figure out how to achieve your objectives through diplomacy, not open or covert warfare.
  • Be above reproach at all times and in all ways; never forget you are on display at all times, both on the job and off.
  • Don’t get thrown in jail.
  • If you do, don’t call any client personnel to bail you out.
  • Don’t borrow software that becomes an illegal copy.
  • Respect client confidential information.
  • Read “Dress For Success”.
  • Don’t use client phones, copiers, fax machines, etc. for personal business (and don’t forget to take your tax return with you when you leave the copier after breaking this rule).
  • T+ E’s should look innocuous if the client winds up seeing them.
  • At any point during a project remember that our bills (fees and expenses) are subject to an audit by the client. Keep a detailed backup copy of all of your T+ E’s in a secure place. We may need them to support an audit.

 

Walker’s First Rule of How To Get Ahead: Be a leader.

  • This applies to everyone and is unrelated to your role or title on the project. Being a leader and being a manager are not the same thing.
  • Frequently the client person will be put in the manager slot on the org chart; you still have to be the leader.
  • Being a leader doesn’t mean going out on a limb without telling anyone.
  • It does mean proactively offering alternatives and recommendations, with rationale, on which to pursue.
  • It does mean doing good research and creative analysis and running it past your superiors (and impressing them) before you go public with it.
  • If you show your boss sloppy work, he will assume you show everyone sloppy work.
  • “I’m only showing you the sloppy one” may work once, but don’t do it often (i.e. more than once).

 

Walker’s Rules On How Not To Get Ahead:

  • Don’t attack an assignment aggressively or don’t look busy after the project manager argued with the client about how badly you were needed on the project.
  • Fall asleep in the meeting where the project manager had to beg to get you invited because it was important for you to hear what was to be discussed.
  • Violate any of these rules. When you do, some client person tells their boss, who mentions it to whomever we contract with, who embarrasses the hell out of your project manager with it, and who in turn is forced to tell the client that it (that’s you) will be fixed.
  • Project managers want and reward people working for them who are part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  • When you break one of these rules, you are part of the problem.

 

Walker’s Rules For Why We Are Here:

  • Solve the client’s business problem,
  • Make the client love us (where client means everyone at every level, i.e. even the turkey you have to deal with),
  • Phase in their people and phase ours out (and onto the next job).

 

Walker’s Rule on Exceptions To The Rules: When you rationalize that your case is the exception to the rule, you’re wrong.

 

Walker’s Rules on Rules:

  • Don’t show this list to the client.
  • Don’t do anything dumb just because it wasn’t on this list.
  • Work hard, relax, and enjoy your work.
  • Be confident (not pompous), if you weren’t good you wouldn’t be here.

 

Kaprelian’s Rule on Discussion Topics Outside the Client Site

  • Our clients and their families eat at restaurants also, so don’t discuss sensitive material in public places.
  • Waitresses and bartenders may seem like nice people to discuss your woes with but they have a friend who knows someone whose brother works in the mail room at our client. By the time these stories make it back to our client it is distorted and blown way out of proportion, (see Walker’s Rules On How Not To Get Ahead #3).
  • In small towns (less than 100,000) repeat the above two rules daily.
  • In very small towns (less than 50,000) repeat the above two rules hourly.
  • In very very small towns (one company cities) lose command of the English language outside of work.
  • In large cities (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc) you should still be careful, the walls may have ears.
  • The airplane ride home might seem like a perfect place to unwind, get plastered, and tell the person next to you everything about your job and client. After your done spilling all, you find out you’ve just told a partner with a competing Big 6 firm enough information to get them the next phase of the project.
  • Don’t be overly paranoid, just be smart about what you say to who.

 

 

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