January 31, 2019

“Nice to have” projects

Sent by Jonathan Stark on February 1st, 2019

Reader Shayne Rempel wrote in with a question that I think you’ll find useful (shared with permission):

Hi Jonathan, I wanted to write in to ask a question that I hope will benefit your other readers who are struggling to effectively have The Why Conversation, too. I was really jazzed about having this discovery call today because I didn’t really need the work, so if they said no, at least I got another opportunity to practice. I wrote down some questions beforehand to see if I could determine the underlying business case/motivation for why they were requesting an audit of their new user portal. I brushed up on “Learn Your Lines” before the call, just in case they asked any hard questions. (They didn’t.) They didn’t have any background or understanding of the work that goes into this kind of audit and I didn’t bore them with the details, just a brief overview. When I asked them why this was important to do now, the only thing I learned is that they just thought it would be good to do before they roll out their MVP. When I asked them why they wanted to hire me instead of using someone in-house or the consulting firm they are already using, they said they don’t know if anyone on those teams knows anything about this type of auditing, but they knew I’d done an audit for the person who referred me. They didn’t really even know what the consequence would be if they didn’t do the audit/remediation. I didn’t want to put words in their mouth so I just said okay and moved on with the discussion. I know this is where I went wrong because I didn’t leave the conversation having any idea what the value is to them (minimal it seems) or convinced that they need me to do it. I had what seemed to be the right project team on the call, but I didn’t know how to dig any deeper into why this was necessary. Did I do something wrong or is a project just not worth pursuing if the client “just thinks it’s a good idea”? —Shayne

Great question, Shayne! Thanks for asking :-)

Based on this info, I think there are three main possibilities for what happened: