I still remember my excitement when I saw the list of the projects for ICP with exciting challenges and large companies on it. This tough year, even more companies asked for a consultancy from IMD. I see three significant trends in almost every industry: digitalization, sustainability and diversity & inclusion, and would assume that companies need changes now more than ever.
My team and I are working on helping one of the largest companies in the world to assess its innovation ecosystem and make recommendations for improvement. The assignment is very challenging and implies digging into the client’s business and benchmarking with peers and other sectors. And this is making our project super exciting: you can not only learn about the subject and one company business, but also get exposure to adjacent industries. Moreover, we learn and try new things under the supervision of our faculty directors and coaches: Arnaud Chevallier (Professor of strategy), Louise Muhdi (Professor of Innovation and Strategy) and Kerry Choun (ICP coach).
During our ICP, I realized that the consulting project is not only about proposing a solution. It is also about client engagement and expectation management. We learned that in order to succeed, it is necessary to agree on the project scope from the beginning and be able to keep it. However, at the start of our ICP, we struggled to get confirmation of our project scope from the client. We began our research on the subject without seeing the whole picture.
The “Dragon Master” tool helped us to get some clarity on the assignment and align team members’ views and vocabulary. The most valuable lesson on that stage was how to keep team motivation and deal with the uncertainty we faced. At the end of the first project’s phase, we presented to the client our findings based on our assumptions and proposed next steps. Finally, our client confirmed the scope and that we have been on the right track. That moment was a relief for us and enhanced our further performance. We have started to unveil one uncertainty after another and getting the speed.
Another disruption we faced was because of COVID and restrictions on traveling and face-to-face meetings. All of the client meetings and some of the teamwork are conducted online for our ICP. To organize group work with digital tools, keep proper communication and manage virtual presentations are extra skills that MBAs are getting now. The ICP provides valuable training on presenting. We learn how to show our findings: how to convey the message in a more effective way, create a storyboard and slide deck. I feel that after that experience, our class members will be already well equipped with these skills to be able to demonstrate them in their future work settings.
Furthermore, ICP is a leadership exercise. The timeframe for ICP is quite constrained (given the simultaneous job search process), and you want to work within a high-performance team. For this, a team needs to come through teambuilding and play its members’ strengths. At the begining of the project, we agreed on the roles, team values and rules on organizing our work. For instance, we had a rule – “no work on weekends”. However, we were too naïve and this agreement was disrupted first on the weekends before the client presentation. Later, we adjusted our team settlement to meet new circumstances. I see that in the modern world, it is impossible to design any system that will stay unchanged with time, and team setup is not an exception. On the opposite, it is highly beneficial to devise dynamic structures, for which response to disruption will be a part of the game.
To conclude my learnings, I am happy with our consulting project. We are working with the leading company in its area, learning about other industries and the subject and significantly broadening our network. In addition, we are acquiring new skills in managing clients, virtual teams and consulting projects. We are now on the final phase of the project and looking forward to delivering our results to the client and provide a real impact on its businesses.