I was working on the executive summary of GovTribe's business plan over the weekend. It shouldn't have been too difficult. After all, we've been living and breathing this little venture on nights and weekends for months. Summing up what we're all about and why the three of us are confident enough to give up gainful employment should have been a simple task. And, in truth, I had no problem getting the ideas on paper. I had a great deal of trouble stating those ideas in a simple, concise, and direct manner. I learned a lot in my seven plus years as a management and technology consultant - much of it invaluable to what we're doing here at GovTribe. But one unfortunate side effect is my seeming inability to write without excessively using indirect, "professional" language. People outside the business may not know this, but consultants never "ensure" anything. We "take steps to maximize the the success potential" of things. We don't commit to outcomes. We commit to taking steps to move toward desired outcomes. It's exhausting to write that way, frankly. But unfortunately it's also become somewhat second nature. So I am in the process of undoing that particular training. It made me better at my job in my old life, but will only get in the way here.
This got me thinking about what else I'll jettison. What other work habits, standard practices, conveniences, etc. need to go? (Probably using "etc." in a sentence ever again is on the list.) And maybe more importantly, what am I going to keep? Friday was my last day at Deloitte. In my farewell e-mail I wrote "I feel very grateful to have found an environment through which I have learned so much, and without which I would not feel prepared to take the plunge into entrepreneurship." And it's true. So I'm going to, right now, see if I can come up with a list of the thing I learned during my career that will help GovTribe, and the ones I'd be better off leaving behind.
Baselining - Any analytical process in which you are trying to determine the value of something should always begin with a definition of base assumptions and an understanding of what came before.
Networking - Always a weakness of mine as a somewhat introverted person, but ultimately a cornerstone of any sales effort. I was not great at networking at Deloitte, but I did get much better at it over the years. I'll need to work on this more than ever.
The Project Construct - I was fortunate enough to do my consulting years the way most people think about it. I typically supported two or three projects at once, each with unique goals and tasks. And within each project, we had workstreams. It allowed each person to have some autonomy and ownership over their work, and forced people to see something through to completion. This translates well to software product development.
The Objective Advisor - One of the best things about learning to think like a consultant is internalizing true objectivity. We had to give advice to clients that they very often were not prepared to hear, and would never have accepted on their own. At GovTribe, we'll need to tap in to that objectivity from time to time and ask ourselves the hard questions.
Mentorship - I cannot overstate the value of working with smart, capable people who are interested in you becoming smarter and more capable. We need to pursue these kinds of relationships with others who have walked this road before.
Business Speak/Writing - I think I've made my point on this one already, but I also want to specifically throw out the following terms: "eminence", "personal brand", "thought leadership", "innovation center/lab/tournament", "community-of-practice".
Templates/Reuse - As consultants, we are literally encouraged to avoid innovation in responding to recurring problems. Especially at large companies, value is thought to come from trademark-able "methods" and standardization. While this is sometimes true, it often results in regurgitation without any real consideration or analysis.
Business Casual - I get suits. I like wearing a suit when the situation calls for it. Down the road I can see donning one again in service of GovTribe. But god help me, I never want to wear a pair of slacks and a tucked, dry cleaned button-down again.
Bulleted Lists - I'll be honest. This started out as a bulleted list and it really made me sad. Bulleted lists (and their big brother, PowerPoint) are explanatory cheats, encouraging shallow analysis and putting the onus on the reader to complete your fragmented thoughts. I need to find better ways to express myself.
Aggregate Performance Assessments - Too often in consulting, project work can turn in to minimally supervised wheel-spinning - completing a deliverable, endlessly editing a status report. All in the service of a macro project objective but with little thought to how each activity should be evaluated. Assigned tasks need to be purposeful in their own right, and must be evaluated against some specific metric or milestone.
By no means an exhaustive list, but I think this is a good start. I'm sure I'll come back to it as the weeks go by, and as I start to get a handle on this small-business entrepreneurship thing. But today, on my first work day after leaving the world of professional consulting, I'll sit here and laugh at myself for voluntarily documenting lessons-learned.