HYCS #45 – How to Assess a Consulting Engagement

HYCS #45 – How to Assess a Consulting Engagement

The Assessing and Closing Phase changes cultures.  Culture change is the holy grail of organizational change.  Isn’t that better than some numbers you can put on dashboard?

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Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Assignment Time: 5-30 minutes

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By the time you’re ready to assess and close a consulting engagement, you and your client have traveled down a path that has changed your relationship.  Even when the engagement has been an unqualified success, you’re both tired and want to move on.

It’s easy to talk yourself out of assessing the engagement:  “We were there, we don’t have to spend time going over it.”  Or, “I’m afraid of what might come out if we talk about it.”

But skipping the assessment is like skipping a really good dessert, the kind of dessert that leaves a good aftertaste even when the meal was less than perfect.  That’s how powerful an assessment can be.  

Culture Change

Cultures tell stories about what happened, what it meant, how it made the culture what it is today.  This common story creates the unity that holds a culture together.  You can’t change an organization without changing its culture and you can’t change a culture without changing the stories that hold it together.  You and your client have created a culture together too.

Assessing and closing changes culture because it helps us tell a truer, more unified story we tell about what happened, and what it meant.

By unified story, I don’t mean groupthink-cult-like-mind-control or clever, slippery lies.  I mean narrative unity:  We tell a true story about the experience we shared.

Telling the same, true story increases everyone’s comfort with the engagement, and it strengthens relationships.  It creates the narrative unity that shifts culture, even when that unity is “Wow, we sure messed that up.”

The Steps

This is a bare outline.  Each step may suggest other steps you’ll need to take in your specific situation.

Assessing the Task

  1. Set a date for a 30 minute meeting to conduct the assessment with your client.
  2. Before the meeting find and send out as pre-work:
  • The original vision for the engagement – the results they wanted that you helped them express and shape in the Entering meeting.
  • Whatever metrics you collected (you determined this during the Contracting meeting, and fleshed them out when you were planning the implementation).
  • Send out an agenda that includes the assessment questions for the task and the partnership (below)
  1. At the meeting look at the data and agree on:
  • Whether or not you accomplished what you set out to in the time frame
  • What you learned/how you were changed by the experience.
  • What you are grateful for
  • What you’d do again
  • What you wouldn’t do again

Assessing the Partnership

“And now let’s talk about how we worked together,” is a good transition phrase if you need one.  The task assessment may flow naturally into talking about the partnership, or it may need a little help from you.  You’ll know.

Your goal in assessing the partnership is to leave nothing unsaid between you and your client.  This is what closure is all about.  You want to tell your client what you’ve appreciated about working with them, and say or ask what will trouble you if you don’t say it. Remember: you can say anything to anyone if you’ve removed all the blame and judgment.  And you can hear anything said to you if it is blame and judgment-free.

  1. Take turns answering these questions:
  • What I most appreciated about working with you (1-3 things)
  • What 1 thing I’d do differently on our next project
  • What one thing I wish you’d do differently on our next project
  • What, if anything I need to make right with you. There may be nothing, and that’s OK.  There may be a question you wanted to ask but couldn’t find the time for, something you want to apologize for that you couldn’t find the courage for.
  1. Set any follow-up actions (a stay-in-touch call, the entering meeting for the next project, etc.)
  1. Say thank you and end the meeting.


Start assessing and closing things:  meetings, projects, dinner with the family, date night, anything.  There is no tool more powerful for changing culture.  If the above format is too daunting, choose another, like a plus-delta evaluation, but do one for the task and one for the quality of you relationship.