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Why on earth did you come to the client "unprepared"?

In one of my recent projects, I had an incredible experience with a customer: the customer is in preparation for the implementation of SAP S/4HANA and has numerous parallel projects. New projects are being launched. There are changes everywhere and it is not clear when this SAP transformation will start (where I am the designated project manager).


In preparation for this day, we had a series of meetings, each time with a different set of priorities and topic.

It was inpossible to know, what the current topic would be for the meeting on site. Hence, I had not prepared an agenda or a PowerPoint presentation (which would be a normal management consulting approach).


My perception was "I am unprepared". My attitude was "let's see".


My client, the CIO, began to explain the current situation.

I listened and asked questions like

  • "why?",

  • "why not?",

  • "I don't understand",

  • "couldn't we do xyz?


But mostly the CIO did the talking and the writing on the whiteboard.

After an hour we had a solution to a problem that had been worrying him for almost two months. His expectation was: this will be a long workshop day.


But we were done in 1hr - and he was blown away.

The compliment I received was the most amazing of my entire career.


What were the key success factors?

I think it was listening, not saying anything and allowing space to think and brainstorm - as well as asking "why" and "why not" and "please explain, I don't understand"?.


Asking "why" 7 times will bring you to the truth (watch this video: Ask why 7 times and then you will know the truth. With John Kuypers).


My personal "aha" moment was during the conversation with my husband: I had to tell him about the compliment - even though I was not prepared.


He replied: "That's not true. The last 20 years have prepared you for this moment".

It's about trusting your own experiences and skills….

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