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#403: Consultants Should Know Their Stacking Order

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I can only focus on one client at a time, two at most. Any more than that and I feel that I am not giving them the attention they deserve. Are consultants who serve many clients at one time unethical?

This is not really an ethical issue. The ability to address multiple projects at one time is related to what some computer scientists refer to as "stacking order." In an computational system, this is a function of how the system is designed to operate. In a person, it is a function of how we are "wired." Some of us naturally and competently handle many projects at the same time; others are best only focusing on one. And "at a time" can mean during a single day or over a longer time period. How many projects you feel capable of handling is not a "more is better" characteristic, but just a function of who you are and, whatever it is, you can make it work for you.

To find your stacking order, consider the way you approach nonconsulting tasks. Do you read 4, 5 or more books at a time, completing a few chapters in each before moving on to the next one, or do you read one book exclusively to completion, then move on to the next? If you are a "one book at a time" type, then it is likely you work best with a single, larger consulting engagement into which you can commit your full attention and effort.

Tip: Consider the size, scope and sequence of consulting engagements that best fit your stacking order. Are you inadvertently creating assignments that are orthogonal to your stacking order? It is harder to rewire your preferences and abilities than it is to retool your consulting offerings and business model. Alignment lets you be more comfortable and give clients the attention they deserve.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  ethics  practice management  your consulting practice 

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