It was getting later in the night, and we had already been going over this presentation and each slide within the deck multiple times. Nonetheless, each time I would review the slide with my leadership they would respond, "So What?" We had been going over this presentation for many days, and it still felt like we were not making any progress.
Everyone was tired. The Lead was tired, the team was tired, and even the birds outside the office window looked tired. Yet we had to keep pressing through. So despite the raising of the hairs on the backside of my neck, I had to step back once again, push back my ego, and see if an answer would come to respond to the looming question. What are we missing? Finally, after multiple iterations and fighting back the impulse to become frustrated we got to the point the question was addressed. The ‘So What” mystery was finally solved.
In retrospect, this was probably one of the best coaching sessions I have encountered during my professional career. The team and I needed to stop looking at everything from our point of view and concentrate on the client’s perspective. The ‘So What' question was merely to ask, why should the client care about this slide and will it address their needs. Each slide had to pass this test, or it was deleted from the final deck.
As Consultants, we can put together slide presentations for just about anything. In fact, if PowerPoint slides were currency there would be some very wealthy Consultants. Clients must believe the number of slides in our presentations pays Consultants. But how much of the information is indeed relevant to the customer and how much repeats itself or could be told in a much clearer and concise message?
Although this lesson was a hard one to learn it has proven to be very helpful and beneficial to my clients. Challenge ourselves and our teams to ask and answer this question with each presentation and deliverable we present for the customer.
One particular deliverable I challenge, as a Change Consultant is the Communication Plan because it really does not pass the ‘So What’ test for me. On Change Management projects the Communication Plan is always presented as one of the primary deliverables. It’s merely an Excel spreadsheet that lists out all the intended communications, timelines, reviewers, due dates, etc. Indeed, it's relevant, but I believe it's the actual communications that are produced that should be of the most importance. Merely, pulling together a list of projected communications, especially when they are mostly copied from previous projects, is not at all valuable to a client. The strategy to implement and linking it back to the goals of the department, organization, business would seem to be more relevant to the client.
I believe the ‘So What' question should be asked all the way through the process even to seconds before delivery. It's bothersome for planners who like to have everything confirmed and following a perceived project plan. But if it doesn't consistently pass the test then why execute just to check a box on a project plan. At the end of the day, the completion of a project plan is only truly valuable to the client if the business objectives have been achieved. I am not in business to complete project plans but to serve my customers and help them achieve their business goals to remain competitive and successful in their respective market. Project Plans are merely my road map and guard rails to the ultimate goals.