Consulting 5.1 Explaining progress: Asking and answering questions about tasks and milestones

This lesson will help you have short conversations to give updates about how your task or project is progressing.


Some say effective task management is the most fundamental aspect of being a consultant. What do you think?

Warm Up: 

Imagine you are starting a new strategy project (or think back to a project you did recently.) It's Monday morning. What key tasks do you have to complete this week?


A. Match the tasks to the stages. First, read through the stages on the left. Do you agree with the order? Next, match the task on the right with one or more stages. 

E.g. "Well, for task A, we really need to crystallize our analysis before every presentation in the feedback and recommendation phases, but honestly I start refining and crystallizing from the moment the analysis starts."

Stage Task (not in order)

1. Staffing, entry, and/or on-boarding

A. Crystallize the analysis

2. Discovery, dialogue and feedback

B. Presentation to the steering committee

3. Analysis 

C. Build our hypothesis

4. Solution

D. Manage the scope

5. Recommendation

E. Build rapport with the client
6. Feedback and decision to act F. Gather data
7. Implementation and expanding the client account G. Prepare a presentation deck

B. There are a variety of ways to explain progress. Take a look at the visual:

Now, decide which phrase matches with which approximate number:

  • I haven't started it yet. 
  • I'm just about to finish. 
  • I'm right in the middle of it. 
  • I'm nearly there. 
  • I've already finished.
  • I've just finished it.
  • I'm about 4 hours away from finishing it.
  • I'll be finished by tomorrow morning.

Can you think of any other language to use?

Now, describe some general things you've finished, are in the middle of doing, and have yet to do. 

C. The following questions are for asking about progress.

First, imagine a context for each one: are you asking a team member, or a subordinate? Next, decide if you would use it at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the allotted time for the task?

  1. Have we gotten started with ---?
  2. How are you doing with ---?
  3. How’s the --- coming along?
  4. Where are we at with ---?
  5. Can I get an update on ---?
  6. When do you expect to be finished?

Now, try asking about your colleague's upcoming strategy meeting. They need to finish analyzing the data, meet privately with the team leader to confirm their findings, then put together some documents. 


A: You are the team leader. Ben, a new recruit on your team, needs to analyze some client data that your team just gathered. You estimate that it would likely take you half a day to analyze it, and Ben started this morning. After that, he has to have the analysis checked and then put that data into a few slides in the deck for the next client presentation. Check on Ben's progress.

B. Your team leader is worried about Ben and asks you about his progress.

C. Your teacher has a few tasks to do. Discuss them and then ask about them.

D. Now think of your own tasks and give an update about what you've finished and have yet to finish. Try to mention at least three tasks within about 20 seconds.