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#417: Being Technically Competent Is Not Enough for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Our firm has made a concerted effort to train our consultants in how to be methodical and consistent in the design and delivery of consulting services. We believe we can start a new line of business training other consultants in a way that most "learn consulting in a weekend" vendors can't match. Is there a market for more consultant training?

The consultant training market is somewhat perverse. In tough economic times, a lot of people enter the consultant market, albeit only temporarily and without a lot of intent to invest in specific consulting skills. In good economic times, consultants may seek out training, but this is usually for a very narrow skill set to enter a new market or industry. It is rare for a consultant to assess the range of skills and attitudes needed for effective consulting (e.g., the Management Consulting Competency Framework) and dedicate themselves to thorough education and development.

Perhaps it is useful to distinguish among consultants who seek to be technically competent and those who seek to become what the Japanese call shokunin kishitsu. The term is roughly translated as "the craftsman's spirit" and means more than technical excellence and is imbued in professions at all levels of society. We expect a violin maker or sculptor to bring an extraordinary esthetic sensibility to their work, but in the West we don't expect this of bricklayers or fry cooks. We all know consultants who seem to have an innate sense of client psychology and culture and commitment to their profession. Because of this, they bring far more to their clients than one with just technical skills like the ones you seem to propose providing.

Tip: Consultant training is a hard business in which to succeed. As a way to differentiate your firm from every other "consulting trainer" in town, consider incorporating shokunin kishitsu concepts into developing a different kind of consultant. This will draw consultants who are really serious about taking themselves to a higher level of service and give you a Blue Ocean approach. Read an article of how one American came to appreciate shokunin kishitsu.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This is not a simple issue. Consultnats must be technically proficinet in their field, and the more competent the better. However, it is true that that is not the whole picture. Other skills and knolwedge are alos important; some of it comes wiht experienvce, some doesn't. I can't express it in a simple e-mail. mark is sort of hinting at it, but again it takes some careful explanation.
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