September 11, 2019

Work Products

While at a conference in Pittsburgh last month, I talked with someone that is an independent consultant. While speaking with this person, they had made a small confession. He was basically “being paid to sit around,” and did not have anything to show for his work. He was nervous that the client would eventually end this engagement. I asked for a few examples of his day-to-day and how he spends his time at this client. He had talked about shadowing some of their people, the procurement process, onboarding new tools or vendors, and process refinement. I followed up by asking him what work products do you produce during these sessions or activities? Working in this way did not seem like such a novel concept to me at the time; it’s kind of just how I work.

Whenever I begin working on something, I think about how I am going to capture my work. Even if that work is not a deliverable, it is data that should inform deliverable. It could be notes, a diagram, a recording, whatever form it might take. There are a couple of reasons. I like working this way. First, it gives you “tangible” information to work with by making your work visible. Capturing information has the added benefit of being able to “show” your work. Sometimes showing your work can be more helpful for yourself than your client or customer. When working on long term engagements or with a demanding customer, you can, at times, feel like the work you are doing is meaningless. Being able to reference your work products in aggregate can help you develop a value stream that puts all work into perspective. If you don’t see the value in what you are doing, you owe it to your customer to tell them as much.

Secondly, when you attend a meeting, someone is willing to give you their time, and you have made a promise that you are going to provide them with yours. Time is valuable to everyone, maybe not valued, but we should put forth the effort. Putting forth the effort to me means attempting to work as hard as the organizer or presented to understand the information or topic being presented. Being present, capturing notes, actively listening. We owe it to ourselves as much as anyone else. Treating the output of your meetings as work products gives you a chance to curate the questions that arise and the lessons learned. Following up on that creates information that informs a deliverable.

Lastly, I think by creating work products in whatever you are doing on a project, whether consulting or not, you are capturing information for posterity and collaboration. Creation of a work product makes work visible and is easier to share that knowledge.

© Lars Cromley 2017