From Generalist to Specialist: The advantage of finding your place in the market


By Mark Schroffel

I reckon the word “and” should be banished from consultants’ bylines.

Sure, there are many things we can do. After all, as well-educated and experienced knowledge workers, we are capable of tinkering in almost any part of most businesses. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t focus our expertise and build our reputations on maybe one or two key areas of service.

While the generalist consultant might find comfort in the notion that they are not closing themselves off to a wider range of professional opportunities, I can assure you there’s nothing more comforting than knowing exactly what you are doing—certain that you are one of only a few people, in your market, who do.

Case in point: Yesterday I phoned a consultant about an opportunity with a client that required a certain mix of skills. One of them was experience in Agile Project Management. The client is eager to hire someone who can run a project and, in the process, do a bit of capability building. “It could be a nice little earner for someone,” so I thought.

My connection turned the opportunity down.

Why? Because his niche involves establishing and building lasting Agile capability (not just to do it on the sidelines of delivery). He has an impressive track record and wants to work with clients who are ready to invest in building an Agile capability—not just dabble in it.

That consultant had just delivered a powerful message to his market. And, in doing so, he effectively created an exclusive opportunity for himself. Whenever a client is ready to invest in Agile Project Management, we’ll be bypassing everyone else and going straight to this specialist.

He’s built a reputation and isn’t willing to compromised his position.

By being willing to specialise, this guy has limited his competition and will get good rates to boot. This is why I think we need to be very judicious of our use of the word “and.” If we offer too much, we end up being just one of the millions of reliable and well-educated resources out there.

Are you a generalist? A specialist? What are the drawbacks? The benefits? Tell us what you think!

Got bragging rights? Please don’t

By Mark Schroffel

As long as people aren’t bragging, I’m sure most of us are delighted to hear that our friends are doing well.

The reality is that most of the things that go on in professional life are hardly newsworthy. Though, I’ve noticed that some people have developed the knack for making the most routine career-event sound like the conquering of Everest.

I must admit to feeling uneasy when I see one of those updates about the unbridled success of a colleague’s latest seminar or project. There’s only so much elation this curmudgeon can take.

The indulgence of using modern superlatives such “killer” and “awesome” only makes matters worse. The “my killer speech in Santiago” update translates to “I’ve gone very a long way to find an audience so I can ultimately tell the folks back home all about it”.

I reckon there should be a “cringe” button right alongside “like”. But then again, who’d be game to use it?

The importance of business representation for project success

By Mark Schroffel

Something is wBusiness Engagement 2rong out there in project land. As someone who does a lot of PIRs and change planning, I’m finding that too many projects have inadequate business representation.

A lack of capacity in the business is a common excuse. But this doesn’t wash with me.

Surely it stands that projects exist to enhance or transform the business. They are by definition an investment in capability for the overall benefit of the business. It follows that the business should expect to be involved and there really is no way to escape the responsibilities of ownership.

The good news is that there is so much to gain from business representation – especially if you can get them involved early.

Bringing business folk into projects is the only way I know of for laying the foundations for change and to ensure long-term success. Not only this, they also have a crucial role in quality assurance, process development and just providing a sound and pragmatic operational perspective.

Yeah, there are a lot of reasons why finding suitable business representatives will be difficult; however, what’s the logic in doing a project that the business is unable or unwilling to support in the first place?

So make business representation one of your Critical Success Factors and don’t accept excuses.

Trust: A platform for leading change

Today’s article in the AFR tells the story of how the people get tired from political spin. The same lesson applies for business: No matter how clever the spin, people need a reason to believe you.

Trusts can only be created over time, and it’s no wonder politicians, on all sides, have trouble hanging on to it as they compromise their way through the realities of government.

The message here is simple.

Trust building is the key to peoples perceptions of clear and believable communications, and in turn, quality engagement. So if you anticipate the need for engaging people in change, you better start thinking about what you should be doing to build trust.

Honesty is a good place to start.