Scripting The Engagement
As a small consultant firm, often, we are brought into an ‘in progress’ change or transformation to fulfill specific strategic goals that are meant to align with overall outcomes. Coming in hot, it's important for us to get up to speed quickly to begin to provide value to the client without delay. Not doing so can lead to undermining the credibility we don’t have by appearing to be hesitant to embrace the engagement as a leader in our space. To that end, we like to have scripts prepared to help ease the transition.
NFL offensive play-callers generally plan out a set amount of plays to call at the start of each game, which is known as “scripting plays”. These “scripted” plays can be used in a specific order or called in specific situations the offense faces early on. They can serve multiple purposes such as
Helping the offense to find some stability and figure out what will be effective during course of the game
Helping specific players get into an early offensive rhythm
Probing the defense for weak points that can be exploited at crucial moments in the game
Creating a well-thought script and then calling the right plays in game situations is the mark of a good play-caller. It doesn’t guarantee a win, but it does help settle the team into the game by building a solid foundation for players to get comfortable with. Normally, the scripted plays have been repeated in practice more than others to help with making sure everyone knows their part.
Building trust early in an engagement is a crucial first step and having a well defined script for the first few weeks can get the engagement off to a great start. Not doing so can make it more difficult than necessary, getting your team acclimated to the environment and ready for action. Here are some breadcrumbs from our experience.
Reading Is Fundamental
Read everything. Especially if you are coming into an engagement that is in progress. The worst thing is to unintentionally walk roads that have been walked, paved and cemented. While there are good reasons to retrace steps to make sure alignment has been achieved, it should be done after reading everything. In this way, you can ask questions with context to hone in on specific answers instead of floundering around generalities previously discussed. Find the decisions that have been made and those needing to be made. Understand what has been codified as the vision for the effort and what constitutes success. The presence or absence of these things can be very informative and can be used to focus conversations on solidifying the foundation of the engagement.
Allow Me To Introduce Myself
As obvious as it seems, the importance of meeting people can never be understated. Meet people and then ask them who you should meet. Schedule time and come with questions, not just about their role, but what concerns they have. What is exciting about the change? What do they know about the desired outcomes, and how it is supposed to impact them? Invest in understanding who makes what decisions and how your role is understood. The information that can be gathered from interviewing people has enormous value.
Trust Through Transparency
Once you've met the people and read the material, it's time for your first ‘chunk play’. In football, this is a play designed to get a significant amount of yardage. A good thing to establish early on is transparency that leads to alignment. Creating transparency that demonstrates your understanding of the direction, assumptions , dependencies and risks for the engagement will help get you to the alignment needed to better understand where we are going, why and what gaps you have discovered. We tend to document what we have discovered on a wiki in templates that help to disseminate the information to our clients easily. Some may choose to create powerpoints for this and present findings, but we caution against that. Presentations tend to be a bit of a barrier to the collaborative spirit we want to generate. That spirit is the ‘chunk play’ to get to as soon as possible.
There can be many activities to get to when an engagement starts or when one starts on an engagement, but it can be helpful to 'script' your plays to make sure a solid foundation is built for you and your client.