I am more of a people person and built my consulting practice around HR, training and personnel assessments. How important is it to have strong analytical skills?
Analytical skills are important whether your practice is highly technical or focused on what some call "soft" skills. Analytical thinking involves how you approach a problem, not that it uses quantitative techniques. Analysis is about making sure that your approach, findings and recommendations are firmly grounded and defensible.
Effective analytical thinking includes the following characteristics:
- Double check your assumptions - the error in the your final answer may have occurred before your analysis even began.
- Confirm your team has the needed diversity - blind spots are more likely the narrower the perspective of the people on your team.
- Define the data, information and knowledge you need - despite uncertainty in any project, identify those elements that most affect the outcome and take the effort to acquire what you need.
- Keep the usefulness of the answer in mind - consider whether you are headed for an interesting or innovative solution and whether your answer is feasible or realistic for the client's need.
- Don't be blinded by the elegance of your approach - not every problem requires, or even benefits from, your favorite consulting process.
Occam's razor says that, all things being equal, the simplest solution is usually the correct one. Your client is looking for a good answer based on solid analysis. Developing a tested set of analytical guidelines and processes will provide better value for your clients, regardless of your type of consulting services.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA