BLOGS / Best Practices for Implementing Change as a Consultant PM

Best Practices for Implementing Change as a Consultant PM

Written By:

Anushree Agarwal interviewed by Alyssa Berbecaru, Digital Marketing Operations Specialist at TribalScale

Being a PM is a challenging role given the number of stakeholders you have to liaise with and the number of teams you have to ensure are moving towards the same goal. This role has its own unique challenges in a consultative environment like the following:

  • A client may have high expectations on transformation but their organization/team may not be set up for success.

  • There may be deep rooted, structural systems in place that you have to learn to navigate and hope to influence.

  • You may not have access to the right senior stakeholders and there may be a lot of factors at play that you may not be privy to.

Let’s walk through the steps and best practices for implementing change as a consultant PM in a client organization.

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Context Before Action

The first step is taking the time to understand the client’s processes and the complex hierarchies really well so you know how to navigate the environment. Take a look at the following:

  • Processes—How does their team develop digital products from ideation through to delivery, what methodologies do they use, and what cadences do they follow?

  • Hierarchies—What does their organizational structure look like, who reports to who, and how do you fit into it?

  • External teams—Do they outsource work to other teams and what level of collaboration and communication would you have with members of those external teams?

There might be multiple teams that you have to work with, which is the case with a lot of our clients at TribalScale, and you might not have easy access to senior leadership. Knowing what you have control over and what constraints you may face will help you later on.

What Does Success Look Like?

Before you identify gaps, it’s important to build upon your context by piecing together an accurate definition of success. Each client is unique and a cookie cutter solution is impossible, so as a PM you need to be careful to not label everything as a “gap”. For instance, a client may have its own sprint lengths and QA processes, and anything should only be a gap if the existing model is not effective in delivering a quality product to the users. Therefore, it’s necessary to first identify the client’s goals and how their processes contribute to those goals.

  • Input from stakeholders—As a PM you should be engaging with all the key stakeholders to understand each of their unique perspectives.

  • Understanding the big picture—How does this project and its success tie into the overall business goals and company mission?

Plan of Action

Now that you know the goal, it’s time to create a plan of action. Start by auditing the client’s product development process and identifying the gaps, compiling them into a list.

  • Differentiating—Which gaps are you able to address at your level with your team and which gaps are out of your direct control? This way you can determine which items for change will require buy-in from leadership.

  • Prioritizing—Which gaps are higher priority and need to be addressed in the short term, and which gaps are not as critical? Also identify if there is an order to which certain items need to be addressed.

Using these gaps you can create a plan of action tailored to the specific client.

Leadership Buy-in

If you’ve identified gaps which require structural changes or gaps which impact large sets of teams and processes, you’re likely going to need buy-in from the client’s leadership. Before you approach leadership it’s very important to thoroughly understand what gap you are highlighting, the resolution you are offering, and WHY. This should be replicable and benefit larger teams within the organization to be truly effective.

Once you’re able to clearly explain that, it’s time to approach leadership and these are two paths you can take:

  • For larger gaps that involve executive leadership, you can raise these first with your employer’s leadership team so they can connect with their counterparts within the client’s organization. Some changes may be implemented but in reality some of these changes are larger transformation projects that can’t be achieved within the scope of your project.

  • For gaps that involve your immediate leadership (not the C-Suite level), you can approach these members and have conversations to get the sign-off that you need in order to implement the changes in question.

Final Thoughts

There are many complexities to navigate as a consultant PM and although you’ll want to hit the ground running on a client project, most times there isn’t a straightforward path to implementing change. Following these steps will ensure you are organized and getting the buy-in you need to do your job effectively.


Anushree is a Senior Product Manager who has developed products from the ground up as well as led iterative product improvement initiatives. Anushree employs empathy to solve real user needs, enjoys working with cross functional teams in fast moving environments and executing product strategy. Outside of work, she is passionate about fitness, healthy living and traveling, and can usually be found reading or cooking.