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#615: Take Responsibility for Being a "Myth Buster"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 22, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 22, 2011
There are times when a client holds an idea that is easily refutable but they won't let go of it and their resistance gets in the way of my helping them. They pay the bills but how do I convince them they are just hurting themselves?

Assuming you are "right" and they are "wrong" and that all would agree that your job is to provide independent, objective and useful information, then a "mythbusting" exercise is in order.

A myth is defined as a story that is regarded as true, although its origin is unknown and may defy logic or deeper explanation. As analytical and critical as consultants are, every one of us operates based on some myths. So do our clients. Sometimes a myth to our client is a known falsehood to us. Hopefully, the reverse is less true. Finally, some myths are so embedded in our culture, educational system and management lore (or are still being pushed by business schools) that it is hard to convince people to give up, even with data, logic and examples on your side.

It is beneficial to discuss, even before the diagnostic phase of your engagement, what assumptions your client (and you) hold about the situation, your approach to the engagement, and the likely path toward a solution. It is fair that the client be able to see what myths underlie your thinking and vice versa. If you work in an industry or across a discipline for a time, you will begin to see the same assumptions. In many cases, these myths are what may be holding back the industry. Your ability to articulate them may give you highly valuable insight into how to fix them. Possibly the worst thing you can do is to press ahead with your "solution" before you have gotten to the bottom of these myths.

Tip: Consider preparing short discussion briefs or (very short) presentations addressing the 5-10 key myths that affect your industry, your client's position (e.g., finance, marketing, R&D), or your ability to deliver services. Discuss and reconcile these at the beginning of each engagement, Your client may not agree with you but at least you will have surfaced the issues. Refine these with each client, incorporating your clients' perspectives and challenges. You will quickly build up a powerful bit of IP (or a book!) of unique value to your consulting profession and your own clients.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assumptions  business culture  customer understanding  intellectual property  learning  management theory  product development 

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Raymond W. Suarez CMC says...
Posted Saturday, July 23, 2011
Two interesting points you make, Mark.

"A myth is defined as a story that is regarded as true, although its origin is unknown and may defy logic or deeper explanation."

This definition of "myth" does not preclude the possibility that the "myth" is accurate and real, thus "true." As you go on to say, "some myths are so embedded in our culture, educational system and management lore (or are still being pushed by business schools) that it is hard to convince people to give up, even with data, logic and examples on your side."

The more this is the case, the more the "myth" represents "reality." Especially with respect to practical implementation.

You continue with associating "myths" with "assumptions." This is very useful, as we widely understand that surfacing assumptions is critical to understanding and resolving problems, and communicating and gathering support for solutions.

While I find it more practical to discern assumptions as a product of data gathered and analyzed, I agree with your statement that "possibly the worst thing you can do is to press ahead with your "solution" before you have gotten to the bottom of these myths."

Thanks and well done.
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