Management Consulting Essentials: The deliverables

If you are more busy than you appreciate you should increase your prices
If you are more busy than you appreciate you should increase your prices

This is the 7th post in a series of posts addressing the issue that too many independent management consultants are working too many hours for too little pay.

See the end of this post for a summary.

This post is about defining what you will deliver during your management consulting assignment.


There are four main reasons why specifying the deliverables is a very good idea:

  1. It is a great way to set expectations and agree with the client beforehand what is to be delivered and when.
  2. It is easier, especially for new clients, to accept a proposal with specific deliverables.
  3. Payments are normally associated with deliveries. It is an opportunity for you to agree with the client up front when payments will be released.
  4. It prevents you from engaging in projects, which turn out to be open-ended. You use too many hours and the client is unsatisfied. The situation becomes “lose-lose”.

The dilemma

Clients are engaging management consultants because they are facing issues that they cannot handle themselves or because they consider an outside “expert” contribution as required.  Thus, management consultants are called upon when change is required. The need for having clearly defined deliverables is grounded in the discrepancy between what clients are ultimately looking for and what management consultants can actually deliver.

What do clients want?

What client ultimately wants and what management consultants can deliver is not always the same

Clients undertake change projects to achieve business results, which can be measured in reduced cost, increased revenue, improved profit, asset sale, asset acquisition, increased market share, improved sales productivity, shorter sales cycles, improved quality, shorter delivery time, less customer complaints, improved customer satisfaction, increased production capacity, faster time-to-market, improved channel performance, bootstrapping new markets, a solid basis for making high impact decisions, etc. etc.

What can management consultants deliver?

Management consultants typically deliver process facilitation, analysis, recommendations, opinions, domain expertise, training, coaching, validation, data, etc. etc.

Only very seldom does the final outcome of a change project depend entirely on the work performed by the management consultant. Never does the management consultant control all the issues and processes which determine the outcome of a change project.

Thus, there is a need for determining when a management consultant has delivered the agreed upon deliverable irrespective of the final outcome of the change project.

Performance based pricing

I will devote a dedicated blog post to the issue of performance based pricing. A this stage I will only conclude that business performance based pricing on management consulting services is the exception and not the rule simply because the relationship between the two is extremely thin. Numerous other internal and external issues will determine the outcome of any change projects.


If you are familiar with the four types of consulting you also know that some consulting assignments have very specific deliverables, while other assignments are of an exploratory nature, where the final as well as the intermediate deliveries are harder to specify.

Type of deliverables

Deliverables can be anything that is tangible and which you and the client can agree has been performed or not.

These are typical types of deliverables:

  • The [slider title=”report.”] Management consulting assignments often include some kind of written documentation; the hated Report. The better you can specify the content and the format of the written documentation the better. A report can also be a market survey, a long list, a short list, interview summaries, an opinion etc. [/slider]
  • [slider title=”Events.”] Workshops, training sessions, meetings you facilitate.  Such events may also be completed with a report summarizing the findings and conclusions. [/slider]
  • [slider title=”Process completion.”] Situations where you deliver process or project management, coaching, process facilitation and so on can be used to define a completed delivery.[/slider]
  • [slider title=”Hours.”] Selling hours is nobody’s favorite business.  There are however instances and situations where that is the only meaningful deliverable. [/slider]

Payment and deliverables

As a management consultant you should always avoid having an asynchronous relationship between the effort delivered and the payment received. Tying payments to deliverables is a great way to synchronize client payments with the effort delivered by the management consultant.


I meet and talk with a lot of independent management consultants.  99% of them are extremely busy.  They are so busy that they have little time to learn new approaches, keep up with the development in their area(s) and develop their business. Most of them even complain that they are too busy. They also use their busyness as an “excuse” for not being responsive and not meeting deadlines.

When I ask why they are so busy the unison answer is: “client projects”. My response is: “Fantastic, you must be making tons of money?” Answer: “Silence.”

The silence continues when I ask them: “When will you increase your prices and with how much?”

This series of posts will address the “many hours/low price” issue, explain the causes and provide recommendations for how you can remedy the situation.  Applying the ideas should enable you to work less hours, make more money and have more fun at the same time.

Other posts in the series:

Post #1: Brand values and positioning
Post #2: Networking
Post #3: Pre-qualification
Post #4: The first meeting
Post #5: Self assessment 
Post #6: The objectives
Post #8: Pricing
Post #9: The proposal
Post #10: Negotiating the price and the payment terms
Post #11: Client reference
Post #12: The delivery


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