by Bill Johnson
Many firms try client development programs yet experience lackluster performance. The application of the Lean A-3 system can guide the process to creating a customized and targeted plan. Ownership is a key component for success, and engagement of senior staff is fundamental.
Lean originated as a management technique to determine the most efficient way to accomplish a goal. The tool works by listing the evaluation, planning, and implementation process on one 11-x-17-inch (A-3) piece of paper.
Many people in your firm have contact with clients on existing work. What are the most effective strategies to mine for new work, and how do you take advantage of existing relationships? How do you identify and pursue potential opportunities? Use Lean to review your current process, identify areas for improvement, develop a plan, and assign responsibilities.
Post-it Note Planning. Capturing the experience present in the room is critical. Generally, 20% of attendees dominate the conversation, but you need everyone engaged. Post-it Note sessions accomplish this by creating an atmosphere where everyone is heard and more ideas and solutions are generated. Give people 10 minutes to write ideas on Post-its, and you will be amazed at the quantity and quality of the thoughts generated. People will see how they align with others as you put the Post-it Notes on the wall and discuss as a group. It’s empowering to the participants.
Why? The first step is to answer why. What’s the end game, the expectations, and the motivation? The professionals at your firm are highly educated, have years of experience working on a variety of projects, and are recognized as experts. They want to use their expertise to help solve difficult issues and problems, but without being associated with sales. Explaining their role as a helper will motivate them and help them understand their role in client development.
Current State. What’s the current state of client and business development in your firm? What’s working or not working? The idea of determining the current state is to see the system clearly. Once this has been documented using Post-it Notes, the facilitator will categorize them and the group can discuss. A quantity of information will be generated in a short period of time with this inclusive technique. Summarize this on the A-3.
Root Cause. Now look at the root causes of your client development failures. Why have you not made calls, attended meetings, visited clients, followed up on leads? There might need to be systemic changes in how the business is structured. Add these results in another block on the A-3.
Future State. Now look at where you want to be and how you will get there. This is where the ideas people would like implemented are discussed. The ideas are in full view with no prioritization. The facilitator will guide the group to categorize the ideas.
Implementation Plan. The key to the implementation phase is shared responsibility and accountability. All staff need to help develop tactics for implementation and see it through, reporting to the group on a schedule that the group sets. These steps need to be measurable with milestone dates.
Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA). As you are implementing your plan, you will experience shifting priorities or have new ideas. Incorporate them! The PDCA cycle is meant to be a continuous improvement process based on learning as you are doing.
Creating a Sustainable Client Development Culture. We all want to do meaningful work and have a positive impact. Creating a sustainable client development culture will make you aware of new opportunities to help your clients. By embracing a culture of client development, you have the opportunity to move your firm into the role of trusted advisor.
To learn more, you can register for the session B03 at ABX on November 16, 8 to 9:30 a.m.
Bill Johnson is the client development manager for Terracon Consultants, Inc.