The Best Time Management Tip for Consulting Professionals
Recently, someone asked us what time-management advice we’d give professionals at a Big 4 company.
Clear writing can make all the difference for effective uses of time. Our experience shows that you can’t talk about time management at accounting, consulting, and similar firms without hearing the word deliverables, and that deliverables are one of the biggest causes of slowdowns and pain.
When your work product is a document or a deck, the potential for inefficiency is huge. Not only are you dealing with constant interruptions that make it tough to write thoughtfully, but managers are then faced with time-consuming editing and rework when teams run off the rails.
Most individuals never learned a process for writing alone, much less as a team
Here’s how managers have described the typical process to us: The client asks for your help, your team assembles to write a deck, you decide who will write which parts, and everyone starts to throw slides at it.
Multiple people working separately on one deck can lead to confusion. What does the client really want, anyway? Do you all agree? At what point in that process does someone realizes that you don’t agree on what you are building?
People squabble about which of their slides should go in, and where. Some just reheat an old deck they used before, whether it’s the right fit or not. (We call this “microwaving.”) We’ve even seen incidences in which the previous client’s name was accidentally left in on a page or two.
You end up with a deck that looks like it was made by Dr. Frankenstein.
What follows is a relentless amount of mind-numbing rework.
Clear writing is essential if you want to be viewed as a trusted advisor
As one partner at a Big 4 firm told us, “A well-designed, strategic presentation is often the difference between winning and losing a huge account.”
Presenting clear, concise information — through well-organized, persuasive documents and decks — shows clients that you understand their needs and can solve their challenges.
Here are a few techniques we share in our coaching and workshop engagements across business lines in the Big 4, and particularly with Advisory (Consultants):
Have a kick-off meeting with all stakeholders to agree upon the desired strategy and content for the deliverable.
Use structured logic to organize points persuasively and make it easy for everyone to insert their sections and follow the line of thinking.
Have regular check-ins with all stakeholders before you deliver a substantial draft to higher ups.
Set roles and responsibilities for team writing in advance.
This small investment of time on the front end helps you ensure everyone is using their time efficiently to deliver value for the client. That’s why it’s not only an effective time management technique, but also a great way to raise your profile and boost your career.