Most of us know the end of this fable by Aesop. The Tortoise goes deliberately on his way while the Hare procrastinates, waiting until the last minute to begin his run. The Tortoise pulls it out in the end in a photo finish.
This is a story we can apply when looking at different consulting approaches. “Slowly does it every time” is preferred, but the real world day-to-day conditions of the supply chain industry often requires we sprint. The question is — how to get positive results regardless of pace?
The Tortoise would listen best by feeling vibrations in the ground and takes time to process the information. The Hare on the other hand has big ears, and would process information more quickly. Either way, the key is to listen. A good consultant will listen first and then ask relevant questions.
What is the pain you are experiencing and why? What is the source/root cause of that pain? What outside factors are influencing root causes and why? These questions drive a deeper dialogue and demonstrate competency. Collecting data points in an assessment goes a long way towards earning trust — which is paramount in a client/service provider relationship.
Gathering information to validate or eliminate perceived issues should be a standard part of any consultant’s methodology. This however takes time. If the Tortoise is preferred over the Hare, a data driven approach with deep detailed analytics and multiple solution scenarios will provide the best result. If time is of the essence, the Hare approach using significant experience in a variety of operations, successful solution development and project implementations may be preferred. Typically fast-paced solutions are necessitated by budgeting/fiscal cycles, and/or operational necessity.
Regardless of Tortoise or Hare assessment methodology, it always comes back to financial justifications for proposed solutions.
Defining Objectives and Activities
The next step should be defining your objectives, typically including the following components:
- Operations: performance based metrics
- Financial: ROI/NPV
- Customer Service: Improved or new service capabilities
Activities which provide deliverables drive the duration of any engagement. Our friend the Tortoise would require time to develop multiple scenarios, solutions, and present variable solutions for corresponding objectives. The Hare on the other hand, noting time is the issue would narrow the objectives, requiring fewer activities, in a condensed period of time.
Reaching the objective must be done with minimal risk to your operation and be invisible to your customers. This is a greater factor for the Hare as speed increases risk. With a properly defined road map, both the Tortoise and the Hare can ensure risk is mitigated, while objectives are achieved.
Providing a Road Map
The Road Map is the “vision” for tactical execution of a solution, showing a timeline with significant milestones. This tool is critical if whether it is a fast track engagement or a long term initiative. Executive level sponsorship of the road map and resulting project plans is imperative for success. Hitting milestone activities in the timeline proposed ensures objectives are attainable.
During project execution the key deliverable is communication. Both the Tortoise and the Hare would agree frequency is the key. Formal communication in the form of scheduled meetings, and spontaneous touch points driven by day to day activity, must occur on a frequent and regularly scheduled basis.
The tortoise was scarcely a yard from the finish. At that very point, the hare woke with a jolt. He could see the tortoise a speck in the distance and away he dashed. He leapt and bounded at a great rate. Just a little more and he’d be first at the finish. But the hare’s last leap was just too late, for the tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. Tired and in disgrace, he slumped down beside the tortoise who was silently smiling at him. “Slowly does it every time!” he said.
Well maybe not every time. You can achieve your objectives by choosing a partner that listens, clearly defines objectives, provides a road map to set expectations, and effectively communicates progress. The Tortoise and The Hare really are not that different. They both covered the same amount of ground and crossed the finish line. The only difference was pace and effort. Ultimately it is important to choose a consultant partner that can adapt either approach to fit your business needs.