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Fast Track Consultancy: A Day in the Life

by Freddie Stephenson

What does a fast track consultant (FTC) do exactly? Well, that depends. Depends on what? Predominately, it depends on what projects and clients you are working with, and problems you are looking to solve.

For the past few months, I have been working with two of i3’s clients in our Business Change and Transformation service line. For one client in central government, I am the day-to-day manager for a work package. For the other client, my primary role as a RAID manager for a P3M capability improvement programme within the rail sector.

Let’s talk about the RAID management role first. Essentially, this role is all about monitoring and controlling internal and external influences on the programme to ensure delivery meets time, cost, and quality commitments. These influences are tracked within central logs that I keep up to date, communicating any changes and reviewing the documentation with the programme team on a weekly basis or in ad-hoc sessions as is required. In addition, I work with the programme team to plan and implement mitigation actions that make risks and issues less probable or impactful.

Most of my time is now taken up by the work package manager role. For this contract, I oversee all the planning and delivery of the work package, manage a team of consultants, and act as the first port of call for liaising with the client. I also contribute, with my team, to the substantive work of what we are contracted to deliver – that is, an outreach programme to survey and audit organisations across the public sector. It’s a varied role that includes discussing and resolving issues for the team, maintaining documentation, reporting to the client, and communicating with all kinds of organisations, from local councils up to ministerial departments.

On an average day, I’ll have work from both clients needing my time and attention. Alongside this, I’ll typically have some internal work or business development activities to do. In my eyes, this is a very good thing as no two days are ever the same, and I usually get to determine what I focus on for a given day. Admittedly, this also makes a ‘day in the life’ piece somewhat self-defeating. Nonetheless, I usually structure my day with a few constants to ensure I get the most out of it.

When I first get to my desk in the morning, I open my calendar to check what tasks I need to complete and what meetings I have scheduled for the day. I find that I am most productive first thing in the morning, from about 8-09.30am, as that’s when I get the most uninterrupted focus time. I, therefore, use this time to plan out my day and prioritise my workload. Then, I use the remainder of the time to complete the key tasks that I need to get done for the day. This might involve preparing for an important meeting, sending an email to a key stakeholder, or updating essential documentation.

The next part of my day is usually a series of ‘stand-up’ meetings for my client projects. Aside from a chance to catch up and have a cup of tea, these are short daily update meetings where each member of the team gives an overview of what they’ve done since the last update, what they’ll be doing before the next one, and anything that might be blocking their work. I like the format; it keeps meetings brief and focused while driving awareness of what your colleagues are doing.

Once these daily update meetings are complete, the rest of my day tends to be more variable. Most days have at least one regular weekly or fortnightly meeting focused on a particular piece of work, like sprint planning or tracking a dependency. I could go into more detail about these meetings or the outputs I produce, but the best way to describe the consultant role is the kind of problems we solve.

We solve lots of problems, big and small. To give some examples from my recent work, it might be:

  • Winning around a challenging group of stakeholders
  • Finding the best ways to visualise data so our clients can get the most value out of it
  • Making a business process more efficient by automating it or removing superfluous steps
  • Creating and actioning plan to mitigate a significant risk

To expand on one of these problems, the survey outreach campaign I am running for the central government client involves reaching out to thousands of organisations. It’s no surprise, then, that we come across challenging stakeholders. Parishes, in particular, are sovereign, meaning that central government can’t easily force them to do anything. My team, however, needs to get these organisations to complete a survey all the same. This has been a continual learning process. We have developed various strategies to win representatives in these councils around. Encouraging knowledge sharing within the team has been key to the process. By reviewing the notable interactions that each team member has had in daily stand-ups and capturing them in our central logs and communications templates, consultants can draw upon one another’s knowledge and hone their approach. We have distilled our message through this process, and it’s been working.

At their core, then, most problems are about people – as we’ve seen above. A consultant must analyse the situation, find a solution, build the case, and convince people to implement it. This is no easy feat, especially as consultants usually don’t have direct authority over the stakeholders and client teams they work with. So instead, it’s about building relationships to change behaviour.

This is what a typical day as a fast track consultant revolves around – exposure to a wide variety of tasks, people, and problems.

Recruitment for our next intake of fast track consultants in live now.

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