You Owe It To Your Clients: The Moral Philosophy of Excellent Deliverables

Before I became a consultant and learned the language, I did have a preconcept of “deliverables” in the form of the course syllabus. As a professor, I spent hours each semester writing my syllabi, which entailed scheduling the lectures and reading and writing assignments, as well as providing accumulated wisdom in the form of class policies. A well-written course syllabus, I believed, was the most important precursor for a successful class:

·         In detailing the course work, it set expectations for the scope of the class

·         In establishing a schedule, it provided a cadence for the students to fulfill the course load

·         In stipulating class policies, it showed the measures of success as drawn from previous iterations of classes

·         In specifying a grading policy, it disallowed ambiguity from what the instructor considered to be poor, mediocre, decent, or excellent work

·         In listing the textbooks, it established who the intellectual authorities would be


The Foundation

The syllabus, then, is the philosophical, tactical, and contractual foundation of the class. Viewed this way, its importance is obvious. An instructor owes students a document that is characterized by perspicuous clarity and strategic purpose: any less represents a professional, even moral failure. Conversely, in submitted work, a student owes the instructor work that is characterized by thorough and honest completion of the assignment: any less, particularly plagiarized or other deceitful submissions, constitutes a fraudulent violation of the syllabus agreement.


Deliverable Documents for Consulting

I don’t write syllabi anymore, but daily I create and use the deliverable documents of consulting, and I have come to realize the cruciality of them. We rely on them for reasons every bit as real and important as other constitutional-type documents. They provide agreed-upon, signed-off solutions, tactics, and parameters. They guide the work and measure the success. As consultants, we owe our clients deliverables that are neat, clear, and attainable. When we submit documents to our clients who are paying us that are characterized by slovenliness and laziness, we are guilty of professional, even moral failure.


SOW’s and Syllabi

For instance, let’s think of a Statement of Work (SOW) as a syllabus, which would represent the instructor’s deliverable. Like I described about a syllabus above, an excellent SOW would be marked by delineated scope, major milestones, methodological approach, and measures of success. But let’s also further develop the correlations and think about a Solution Design Document (SDD) as a submitted assignment like a prospectus or research paper. From this perspective, the consultant is like a student submitting an assignment for grading by the client. The “grade” awarded will be commensurate with the effort given: if the client views the submitted SDD with confusion or even irritation, probably the document is poorly conceived and executed; if the client receives the document as a workable roadmap to a successful project, probably the consultants have done a diligent and thoughtful job. In the case of the SOW, the consultants have the opportunity to set a trustworthy advisory relationship for the project ahead. In the case of the SDD, the consultants have the opportunity to capitalize on the trust gained at the beginning of the project by submitting a document of highest professional integrity. In both cases, returning to the constitutional-contractual model mentioned above, the client is able to develop a beneficial and meaningful relationship with the consultants that is predicated on reciprocity and respect.


What is a “Great Deliverable”?

An excellent deliverable has a universal quality. Philosophically, it would exhibit the morality of honest and conscientious labor. On a material level, it would show tangible marks of superiority:

·         Disciplined structural organization, with good use of parallelism and terms definition, for instance

·         Strict methodological purpose, so that the document as a whole provides clarity to the work to be done

·         Advanced linguistic traits such as impeccable grammar, accurate diction, consistent voice, unambiguous syntax, and relative brevity.

·         Intelligible technological semantics, so that a civilian reader could comprehend complex IT concepts

·         Complete and coherent information, so that the client is not confused or troubled by gaps

·         Correct appropriation of industry or technical terms, so that “use cases,” “user stories,” and “test cases,” for instance, are plainly understood and delineated

·         Accountability and traceability, so that everyone knows their role and the work to be done

·         Plain criteria by which work is considered to be done and assessed to be good


The Handover

The word “tradition” refers to something being “handed over,” like doctrine or family recipes. Most of us acknowledge that tradition stands for something that’s loss would be devastating if not catastrophic. Such is the importance of tradition. A deliverable, likewise, is something handed over, and we do well to consider it something so important that we would struggle to function without it.



About Austin

Austin Amonette is a Senior Consultant at Statera and is a published author and former professor.