PMean: Two questions you should always ask at the end of a consulting session

Steve Simon


There was a discussion in the ASA Consulting Section forum about how to avoid “failures” in consulting. Failures can mean a variety of things, missed deadlines, incorrect analysis, misunderstanding of client needs, and so forth. How can you avoid failure in a consulting environment?

While it is not the only thing you should do to avoid failures, there is one thing I do at the end of every consulting session that I think can help. Ask two things.

First: Did I answer all of your questions?

If a client leaves a consulting session without an answer to a question there were coming for, I have not done my job well. Even if I can’t answer EVERY question in the time allotted, I want to make sure that I answer all the big questions.

Second: Do you understand what you need to do before our next meeting?

The latter question is common in my consulting practice because I usually ask the client to do their own data analyses, whenever possible. I want to show them the general process, and maybe run one or two examples for them, but then they will often do the rest themselves. So they need to know what is expected of them.

Sometimes the roles are reversed, and I need to do something for them prior to the next meeting. In that case, I don’t ask the second question, but instead summarize what I plan to do, just to make sure that I’m not missing something important.