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#200: Do You Know Your Consulting Terms?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 18, 2009
Updated: Sunday, December 20, 2009
Since when did consulting terms depend on any definition one wants to put on them? I hear colleagues using terms inappropriately but they seem OK with that.

"Terms of art" in professions are expected to have uniform and specific meaning, shared and understood by all. Especially in the legal profession, variations in the meaning of a given term lead to confusion, miscommunication and professional malpractice. In the consulting profession, clarity of communication with clients and among colleagues is similarly important.

The challenge of consistent terminology in consulting is that many of its practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds. Some come from business, others from academia or technical disciplines, still others from business administration. Each of these environments may have a different perspective on what, exactly, the nuances of how an objective differs from a goal. Consider how confusing it is to have consultants use loose terminology. Bad enough is careless use of terms that may be in common use but not in your vocabulary. Probably worse is inconsistent use, when you use a term differently with different people or vary its meaning over time.

Tip: Make a list of twenty terms that form the basis of your practice (e.g., strategy, process, audit, engagement, talent management, security) and write a definition for each or how you would explain them to a client or your colleagues. You might be surprised at how hard it is when you have to write these down. When you are comfortable with your definitions, go and defend them to your professional colleagues. Again, you will be surprised at how you may have to defend your interpretation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting colleagues  knowledge assets  learning  teaming 

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