Set the tone. When preparing to hire a contract employee or consulting firm, outline your company's expectations and the expectations of the client during the initial interview meeting. Once a contractor has been selected, the initial planning session should include enumeration of all goals and specific deadlines for accomplishment of various milestones of the project. Break down the goals into company specific and client specific categories.
Company specific goals may include brainstorming and strategy meetings with company employees and client representatives, a phased completion of the project, review sessions prior to client submission, and a review of the process of the project upon completion. Client specific goals may include planning, and production and submission of the project. Some clients will prefer to be an integral part of your process, while others will prefer to allow your company complete freedom to accomplish the project at your discretion. This client preference should also be part of your decision-making and planning session with your contractor/consultant. Will the contractor interact with the client? How will your company monitor this interaction?
Stay in the loop. It's not uncommon for a project to get off to a great start, then gradually supervision begins to slide, and it takes quality performance with it. Supervisors may take on new projects or become involved in other aspects of the business. The consultant inadvertently begins to veer the project down a path that's of their interpretation rather than according to the client's requirements. Stay in touch with your project manager(s). Request and thoroughly review regular updates on the status of the project. Meet with the lead consultants to discuss project direction and review goals as well as the approved process for achieving those goals.
Communicate. When a client hires you to perform a service, obviously they trust you to provide the end result they require. Keep your client apprised of project status. If there are delays in the completion process, make certain your client is aware that the deadline may need to be shifted. Work with your contract employees to fix glitches as soon as they occur. This is not a time to let pride or ego interfere. Address issues openly, with professionalism and courtesy.
Show appreciation. As the job progresses, and certainly upon completion, recognize the efforts of those that "make it happen". This recognition isn't just for the superstars of the project, but the entire team. Kudos are always welcome and are great motivators as a project moves forward.
Review and prepare. Upon project completion have a final meeting with your entire team. Review the project, the glitches, and the unexpected (good and bad) that occurred. Brainstorm about what could have been done differently that would have made project completion more expeditious. Share ideas for a more productive process for the next project.
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