We Will Diagnose Before We Prescribe

We will take seriously our professional obligation to begin at the beginning, and we will never put our clients or ourselves in the position where we are prescribing solutions without first fully diagnosing the client’s challenge.

~ wwp ~

There are four phases in our client engagements:

  1. Diagnose the problem/opportunity
  2. Prescribe a therapy
  3. Apply the therapy
  4. Reapply the therapy as necessary

While it is common practice in the creative professions to prescribe solutions without fully and accurately diagnosing the problem, in almost every other profession such a sequence would render the professional liable for malpractice. Too often we are guilty of this flawed process and our clients are guilty of trying to impose such a process on us through the pitch. We owe it to ourselves and our clients to stand firm on this most basic of professional practices and to never agree to begin working on a creative solution to a problem that we have not fully explored.

In a process that pits multiple firms against each other and asks each to present solutions, the client does not have the time to invest in meaningful diagnostics with them all. So he abbreviates the diagnostic phase; he dictates the process, marginalizes it and proclaims that his self-diagnosis is valid enough for us to proceed.

But how many times have we proceeded based on the client’s self-diagnosis only to discover that it was wrong? How many times has the client come to us stating, “I need X,” only for us to discover that he needed Y?

It is more likely that the client’s perspective will be wrong, or at least incomplete, than it is that it will be whole and accurate. We know this. Doctors know the same of their patients. Lawyers and accountants know the same of their clients. The customer is not always right. More correctly, he usually has strong ideas and a strong sense that he is right, but is locked into a narrow view and weighed down by constraints that seem to him to be more immutable than they really are. When the client comes to us self-diagnosed, our mindset must be the same as the doctor hearing his patient tell him what type of surgery he wants performed before any discussion of symptoms or diagnoses. Our reaction must be, “You may be correct, but let’s find out for sure.”

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