Note in progress Last updated August 06, 2021

Clients are cats. You can't herd them.

The old adage "it's like herding cats" applies to clients. Maybe a project isn't going the way you want, maybe you're stressed and overworked, or maybe the client can't seem to get their shit together. Oftentimes in those situations you might want to try more strongly pushing for what you believe to be right. Maybe you'll institute a new process, add new rules to your engagement style, or continue to pursue an idea whose value you feel the client hasn't understood.

But collaborating with clients is like herding cats — you can't force anything on them, or you'll get scratched. If a project is not going well, you have to stop and think about why you are stuck:

  • Is our team really the right fit to solve these challenges? Do we need help, or to pull back from the project? If not, don't try to solve the problem.
  • Is the problem framed wrong, or did we make a strategic error? Is it correctable? If it's not correctable, try to reframe the problem as an opportunity.
  • Am I communicating clearly? Have the clients missed an idea because I didn't understand it well enough to present? If you need to get your head straight on the idea, tell the client this and take the time you need to do it right.
  • Do we both have the same information? Do we trust each other? If you have unequal information, push communicate. If you don't trust each other, ask why.