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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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#190: When Things Go Wrong

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 4, 2009
Updated: Friday, December 4, 2009
I made a recommendation to a client that ultimately did not work for them. I suggested using a specific material for a part and it failed to perform during the testing phase. I'm not sure what exactly led to the failure, but my recommendation was obviously wrong. Should I take responsibility for this issue with the client? I would hate to risk losing my client's confidence in me personally, the quality of my work and my ability to deliver excellent result in the future.

"I was wrong" is a tough admission for anyone to make, but it is especially difficult for a consultant who was presumably hired to provide their client sound recommendations. But sometimes saying these words are critical to preserving a long-term relationship based on client-consultant trust.

Address your concerns in a timely manner in order to alleviate your client's doubts and to prove that you are on top of the situation. Also, don't automatically assume that you are at fault (unless you are certain of it). You might start by stating that, "Based on what I've seen from the test results, there seems to be a problem with using the material I recommended and I'm not sure why. My team and I may have missed something in our assumptions or we may have not implemented it properly. I know this represents a set back, but I think it would be wise to investigate further why the failure occurred, so that we can get this testing back on track. I would be happy to do this on my own and give you my very best follow-up thinking and insights or I could work with your people to get the facts sorted out. At any rate, I will leave it to your discretion on how we should proceed. This type of problem rarely occurs, and I consider it a personal challenge for me to find out what went wrong here and why, and then provide you with a full report regarding the findings and recommendations for getting back on track."

Tip: When things go wrong, responding quickly and honestly to the issue and then doing what ever it takes to make good is an excellent approach to restoring client confidence in you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  apologize  client relations  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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#189: Making Your Recommendations Useful in the Long Run

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 3, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 3, 2009
Clients vary in their requests for final project briefings and reports, both in terms of content and format. I don't like writing long reports and wonder how useful they are to the client anyway? If a client wants "everything" in the final report, how much is it worth pushing back.

This is certainly something to negotiate at the outset of the engagement. Some clients are OK with no report and a final briefing. Any final report should satisfy three criteria:
  • Present complete information about the client's condition and your recommendations.
  • Support your findings and recommendations with verified data and logic
  • Be clear and unambiguous as to how to use the recommendations
If you can achieve these three outcomes in a final briefing or through shadowing of client staff during the engagement, you may be able to not need a final report. In any case, discuss these requirements with your client, who may have others.

Tip: Remember in designing your final reports to consider how well they will "age." Think about how, a year after you have departed, the format and content of the report will be usable to the client. Will the recommendations be "outdated" or misunderstood without the benefit of being involved in the change process? Will the client know under what conditions the recommendations you offered are no longer appropriate? Have you indicated the point at which additional consulting services may be useful? To the extent possible, design your final report to not become obsolete weeks after your departure.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  information management  writing 

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#188: The Role of Ethics in Surveys

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Consultant surveys are occasionally attached for lack of objectivity. Is this a design issue or something more?

Survey research is a skill that requires some experience to design, administer and interpret. It is easy to think you are creating a great survey if you don't know where you may be missing something. For example, there are ethical considerations in survey design. What questions are you not asking? Have you considered the role values play in a respondent's answer? Are the questions asked in a way that might inhibit a respondent from answering truthfully (even though the survey is anonymous)?

Surveys are only as useful as the context in which they are taken, and this means they are as much about values as they are about data. The questions you are using a survey to learn about have values embedded in them. You bring your own values with you, recognized or not, when you interpret or report results.

Tip: Surveys should be designed and interpreted by several people. The purpose of this diversity is to recognize value conflicts due to age, ethnicity, gender, geography, life stage, experience, etc. that may affect how the questions are interpreted. Even the best survey researcher benefits from a second, even third, pair of eyes.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  ethics  market research 

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#187: Are You a Speaker or Teacher

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Why is speaking in front of a auditorium full of people full of anxiety but in a seminar room not so much?

Speaking in front of a group can often result in the calmest of people experiencing anxiety, nervousness and fear. Teachers, on the other hand, rarely describe experiencing the same apprehension.

Although there are some differences between speakers and teachers, there are many similarities. Regardless of whether you are teaching or speaking, you are, in fact, communicating - using your voice, body and, in some cases, audio/visual material. Although public speaking often features less direct interaction with the audience, the goal for both is fairly similar: sharing information with your audience and have it resonate with them.

Tip: Consider your next speech as a teaching opportunity. Make the "mental" shift, take the pressure off of yourself (and how you are going to appear to your audience) and place it firmly on meeting your audience's need to understand, appreciate, and learn from the information you want to provide to them. You'll get the message across better and the audience will be more at ease listening.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  facilitation  meeting preparation  presentations  teaching 

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#186: How Consultants Can Compete With Free Information

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 30, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 1, 2009
How do I respond when prospects (or clients) tell me that they don't want to pay for my services because they can get most of it for free on the Internet? With powerful research results, templates, and analytical applications available, some of which I use in my work, I can understand their argument.

It is true that both information and analytics are available for free or nearly free. Also, available are decision engines, business planning software and powerful searchable databases. However, don't lose sight of the differences between data, information and knowledge. I can get anatomy texts, equipment and a facility but that doesn't mean I should be doing surgery. The ability to assemble and process data is only a minor part of our value as consultants. That value comes from being able to differentiate between good data and bad, turn data into information and create knowledge through use of that information. Information may be more freely available these days, but turning that into usable knowledge requires the value added experience, judgment and objectivity of a consultant.

Tip: Experts occupy a region between rule-based systems and the wisdom of crowds. Although the rule based systems, even neural network systems, and information aggregation systems, like crowdsourcing and open betting systems, are expanding in their application to business problems, there is still a lot of space available for consultants. That said, your value increases with your awareness of, knowledge about and experience using these tools. For example, learn about the use of decision support tools like those available from Palisade Corporation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USAinformation may be free but knowledge isn't

Tags:  consultant role  knowledge management 

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