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By Lydia Herberts and Ben Lewis

Following on from our previous insight into how our Project Controls Function adapted communications to suit the needs of a growing team, this article explores one of the fundamental elements of being a consultant – adapting to new environments.

One of the pivotal components of successful consultancy is the capacity to be adaptable to evolving environments at the inception of a new contractual engagement. At i3Works, our consultants operate across a range of diverse clients and frameworks, spanning the defence, public, nuclear, IT and infrastructure sectors. 

While there may be similarities in the operational approach of clients within these sectors, there are also notable variations, even within the same entity. This is particularly evident with regard to policy and procedure, organisational culture, and outputs. As an established management consultancy, many of our own consultants have encountered similar challenges when transitioning to new roles and so, drawing on our own experiences and shared learnings, we have identified five key strategies to help consultants, of all levels adapt to new environments: 

Top Tip 1: Engage with Stakeholders

Developing a strong rapport with your colleagues on a new contract is a must. The role becomes much easier when stakeholders know who you are and what you’re there to deliver for them. Furthermore, having a working knowledge of the team and where everybody sits within the organisation will aid in your understanding of the hierarchy and wider reporting structure. Building a good relationship with the team through conversation and engagement will also allow you to get to know the key people around you and help you develop an understanding of their current position.   

Top Tip 2: Get the Lay of the Land 

Once you have begun to embed within your new team, it is helpful to try to further understand the context of the organisation through them. This can provide you with knowledge and understanding of the journey of the project, programme or portfolio to date. It may also provide insight into how your new colleagues feel and any challenges they may be facing. For instance, if there is a large-scale organisational transformation, colleagues may be experiencing change fatigue.   

Top Tip 3: Immerse Yourself in the Organisational Culture 

Understanding the values of an organisation and what drives the culture will be another valuable tool. This will provide you with the basis for everything you deliver on the contract and ensure that you and your new colleagues are pulling in the same direction; ultimately helping to drive success in the role. Furthermore, this understanding will allow you to produce outputs that are important to the business and align with their strategic vision.  

Top Tip 4: Make an Immediate Impact  

As with a new job, it can be difficult to hit the ground running when you first start on a contract. By applying the previous three tips, you will be able to work proactively and begin to discover where you can add immediate value to the client. This will in turn, improve your ability to prioritise your contributions through the life of the contract and not only make your new colleagues happier but also boost your confidence.

Top Tip 5: Be Kind to Yourself 

The final tip is simple but arguably, the most important. You need to accept that there will be a teething period as you settle into a role, for instance, getting started with IT can be difficult in any environment. Remember that you are adjusting too! 

One of the other key things to realise is that adapting to new environments affects everyone from the person who is new to consulting, through to those who have experienced many different contracts. Martyn Hubbleday, Managing Consultant in Project Controls, had this to say on the topic.  

“You may be overwhelmed by everything being new and different, but take a moment to compose yourself and consider that you’re here for a reason and have a lot to offer. Always engage and get stuck in, explicate everything and develop your understanding of the client as quickly as possible. Get to know people, as this will open doors and make you feel comfortable as part of the new team and environment faster. Try not to compare client environments, each organisation operates differently and has a different history informing this. Utilise your knowledge to improve without dwelling on what should have happened before and enable them to make steps towards achieving their goals.”  

Talking around these challenges and identifying solutions within the i3Works Project Controls Function has provided our own consultants with the tools to blend more seamlessly into new environments and provide an immediate impact for our own clients. This has also given the team the confidence to utilise themselves more innovatively, allowing our consultants to provide more inspirational ideas within a delivery setting.

In following these top tips, developed through a collaboration of ideas within i3Works, consultants can achieve efficient and effective delivery for their clients, which is always the ultimate aim.

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