How Much Does It Cost? The Importance of Process Design

Posted by Matthew Thomas

Usually very early on in a conversation with a prospective client, I hear one of two interrelated questions: "How much is this going to cost?" and/or "How long is this going to take?" 

These are very valid, and very important questions in any work we do. We certainly want to acquit ourselves well in efficiency of both time and expense. However, in many cases, these questions are very difficult to answer up front. In organizational design, the real answers to those questions are as much dependent on the client - their complexity, their goals, the speed at which decisions are made, the "institutional will," and so on - as they are dependent on the skill, expertise, or quality of the consultant

matthew-thomas-2How, then, do we go about answering those questions?  

For basic engagements, we work through a series of questions, ones that may be familiar from school essay-writing:

  • Why (Why this work? Why us?)?
  • Who is involved (who supervises, who funds, who signs off, who approves, who must be consulted along the way)?
  • What detailed outcomes or deliverables do we expect?
  • Where is the work to be done?
  • When does the work need to take place?
  • How shall we proceed?

Once we work through those, answering the cost and time questions is a lot easier. We find that working from clear objectives in this manner helps bring clarity to the client's situation even from before the work begins. 

Many times, though, the full nature of the work required to solve the problem is still not clear even after asking all those clarifying questions. The reason is, typically, that the client still is operating with some unknowns, and does not have key pieces of information to give to the consultant that would help specify what is needed. In those cases, we have two options: either work from our educated best guess as to what we think it will take (which may or may not have enough information to be accurate in the first place), or design a process whereby the missing information may be obtained, within an assessment and discovery process, all of which points toward a clear way of moving forward, reflected by clearer answers to our six questions.  

This process design allows everyone involved to take a step back, lower the heat a bit, and create a way forward that is the most timely and cost-effective given the nature of the problem and its solution. With truly complex situations, everyone understands that working toward solving one problem may surface other related, but as-yet unaddressed problems. 

Design Group International helps organizations and their leaders transform for a vibrant future. We are committed to doing just that, from the earliest stages of conversation to the completed work. We have found that using this method helps increase client satisfaction and helps our consultants really provide the help we desire to offer. 

If you're reading this, and thinking, "I think this process approach might really help a situation I'm in," then I invite you to click the button below to begin a process conversation with us. 

It begins with design.


If you're reading this, and thinking, "This approach to problem-solving and organizational design really fits me; I'd like to see what it might take to link up with Design Group International to build my practice," then I invite you to click the button below to begin a conversation about whether Design Group International might be a consulting home for you. 

I think Design Group International might be for me. Let's talk!

Topics: process design, Matthew Thomas, organizational design