Building a Consulting Culture
Where We Started
Information Technology Services supports all information technology within Humber College, a leading provider of polytechnic education in Ontario. As the result of an assessment of internal project management practices, they recognized an opportunity to improve how they consult with clients throughout the College. The organizational has a strong entrepreneurial culture, broadly embraces innovation and has an ambitious strategic agenda. The challenge for ITS was to continue to be a proactive, responsive provider of services in a fast-paced culture that values results.
What They Needed
One of the essential challenges facing ITS was proactively responding to the demands and expectations of their internal clients. They are responsible for the computing and technology needs of the entire organization, from classroom instructors to students to administration, and everyone in between. This requires balancing priorities on many fronts, and being a proactive service provider to a large number of eager and expectant clients. While staff value their work and the clients they serve, the workload is high, the pace is fast and balancing shifting priorities is an on-going challenge.
Recognizing that the demand and expectations were not going to decline, ITS sought tools to give staff better ability to gain a sense of control of their workload and improve how they approach negotiating needs, wants and expectations. The challenge to be addressed is not dissimilar to that of a consulting organization responding to the needs and demands of a spectrum of enthusiastic clients. Acknowledging this, we pointed Humber towards the Flawless Consulting training program provided by Designed Learning as the basis of a potential solution.
What We Did
We supported ITS in the building a more consulting-focussed culture, through a progressive series of workshops and the development of a flexible model to support client engagement and solution delivery. Developing an internal working group that would serve as subject matter experts and internal champions, we facilitated the piloting of the Flawless Consulting workshop. Seeing value in the underlying model as a basis for broadly supporting client work within ITS, we led the working group in the development of a tailored model, the Guide to Exceptional Client Service, that provided Humber-specific guidance to establishing, building and sustaining effective client relationships with clients.
The developed model was designed to support the full scope of services provided by ITS, from simple client requests to full, multi-year enterprise projects. The overall framework emphasize the initial engagement of clients in exploring their needs, and identifying potential solutions. In particular, the model frames defining the client relationship, exploring the problem and its underlying causes, and preparing and presenting feedback and recommendations to the client. This up-front consulting approach is designed to support negotiating wants and needs on both sides, and identifying solutions that when applied mean that problems stay solved.
We also designed and supported the development of a number of companion resources, including an extensive web site that serves as a guide to the model. The web site also includes interactive planners that provide guided prompts to staff as they prepare for interactions with clients as they work through the model.
Most recently, we supported the development and implementation of a change management program designed to support staff and supervisors in adopting and embedding the model into their on-going day-to-day work. This includes the delivery of on-demand workshop modules, facilitation of follow-on workshops and the preparation of improvement planners that support staff and supervisors in internalizing the model as a framework for on-going improvement.
While the workload and expectations of ITS clients have not changed, adoption and leverage of the GECS model by staff to support client work has provided on-going value. Continued delivery of the Flawless Consulting workshop, on-going support of the GECS model and proactive support for its adoption has continued to have a positive impact. Staff have uniformly found value from the workshop experience, and many have proactively adopted and incorporated many of the ideas, concepts and approaches into how they deliver their day-to-day work.
This is an on-going process of change that is designed to help ITS build new operating system of how they function as an organization, deliver services to their clients and collaborate with each other as colleagues.