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When To Say "Yes" To Education Consulting and Oursourcing Projects.

Technoshock. Globalization. Mergermania. Big doings that have the potential to upset workplace harmony and require employees to work and collaborate in new and scary ways.

And that encourage ever-opportunistic education company execs to say, "We don't just do training -- we're Change Consultants!"

OK, so you're on to a $2 million enterprise transformation deal and you're salivating like crazy. Not to rain on your parade -- but ask yourself a few questions first.

A. "Are we really qualified to perform this job?"

Don't count on your client to figure this out. If you can't do what you contract to do, you'll wind up having to learn on your own nickel -- or wind up embarrassing yourself.

Don't consider yourself qualified if you lack the resources required to accomplish the job, either. You'll wind up drained, and the rest of your business will dry up from a lack of attention.

A training company CEO I know was behind plan, and getting desperate (don't you love this business). Then he ran into a 3rd world diplomat at a DC cocktail party decked out like Mussolini. "You're in the training business? How'd you like to train my entire country?" Next thing you know, the CEO was bidding on a contract to train 30 million tribesmen in literacy, nutrition and personal hygiene. An on-site needs assessment visit was complicated by raw sewage in the streets, public executions and demands for bribes. Fortunately, the CEO's Board found out about the deal in time to squelch it.

B. "Would I hire us to tackle this assignment?"

If you wouldn't, chances are your client is a fool. And you're equally foolish if you sign on to consort with him.

Why? Because a foolish client will be of little use in helping to frame the project plan, will change scope and direction at the drop of a hat, will be inept at getting buy off on your deliverables and will be fired before it's time to pay you.

Now, do you still want the job?

C. "Will we learn something of value to all of our clients in completing this assignment?"

Do accept project assignments that offer the potential for you to develop a commercially viable new product or service on your client's nickel. Or that give you valuable insights into a new market or a new technology you deem crucial to your future success.

Do also take your client into your confidence concerning your intentions. Not just because it's ethical -- but because most contractual agreements give your client full ownership of any work you perform.

D. "Will this project satisfy our profit requirements?"

Don't undertake major educational consulting and project work without an excellent prospect for earning a sizeable profit. Why? Because you are also undertaking considerable risk, and deserve to be rewarded for it.

There is a hypothesis that goes like this. "By undertaking this sensitive enterprise-linked education consulting and project assignment we will ingratiate ourselves with our client's senior decisionmakers and become an ongoing trusted confidante. So even if we don't make any money on this deal it will be a great door opener for future business."

I've tested this hypothesis -- and it doesn't hold water. That's because enterprise education deals are usually triggered by periods of tremendous dislocation and change -- and these periods typically occur once every five to fifteen years or so. Once the problem is solved, it's back to business as usual. And if you weren't already part of that business as usual process, you can kiss your future prospects goodbye!

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