From contracts to collaboration

By David

There are two sides to being a consultant.

On the one hand you get to work with a wide range of clients on projects that are varied and interesting. You’re exposed to different perspectives and ideas, and if you’re open to them it means you’re always learning. It keeps you on your toes and that’s what I like about it.

On the other hand, you are usually contracted to produce a deliverable at the outset of a project with limited scope for change. Sometimes you realise that what you’re doing is not exactly the right thing, but you’re somehow stuck in a one-way project track where your ability to create change is limited. This always feels like an opportunity lost.

But there is hope. Imagine a move away from purely deliverable-based contracts. In Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience Jeff Gothelf argues that we:

… give up the illusion of control that a deliverable-based contract offers but gain a freedom to pursue meaningful and high quality solutions that are defined in terms of outcomes, not feature lists.

So instead of working mostly in isolation, making something, you turn the process on its head by involving clients more in what you’re doing. What becomes visible is the boundary of a process and not the physicality of a thing. This has many advantages, Jeff Gothelf continues:

… both agency and client benefit form additional insight, feedback, and collaboration with one another.

The learning from this process may reframe the problem, or for example, bypass the creation of a wireframe deck completely, leading straight to the creation of a MVP.

Insight, feedback, and collaboration are the necessary foundations for making better products. Getting there requires boldness and a desire to explore, from both consultants and clients alike. And I think it is a risk worth taking.