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#355: Learning From Mistakes of Other Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 23, 2010
Over the years, in both large and small consulting firms, I have seen both brilliant and foolish moves by other consulting firms. I have come to realize, however, that I probably learn more from the mistakes of others than the success stories. Does this make sense?

It makes perfect sense, if you think through the circumstances and decisions that led to the mistake. The hardest part, though, is ever finding out the whole story of a situation or decision gone bad. No one wants to talk about engagements that have gone bad - either the client or the consultant.

Case studies about consulting firms are good sources of learning what not to do, and there are a dozen "kiss and tell" books available about management consulting mistakes (or malfeasance). There is a lot written about large consulting firm projects because the stakes, and losses they incur, are so high and so visible. Also, when something goes bad, the client is quick to throw the consulting firm under the bus. But the challenge is finding stories about individuals in larger firms and about smaller firms. These are more likey to apply to your situation and, whether it is an ethical or analytical lapse, something you can learn from.

Tip: Talk to your consulting colleagues or clients, one on one, about where they have seen (or been a part of) consulting engagements going bad. Ask for the conversation to improve your decision making, so you don't need to know all the details about who it was, just the processes and outcomes, and any suggestions about how it might have been avoided. Compared to case studies, which often describe just the facts, a discussion can provide insights into the motivations, risks, and expectations in play.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  engagement management  ethics  practice management  reputation  your consulting practice 

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