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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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#110: Keeping Your Spark Alive

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 14, 2009
After twenty years in management consulting, it is getting routine. It's not that it isn't rewarding and stimulating, just that it has become routine. Advice?

One of the "occupational hazards" of most work is that it often becomes routine. Even professions that might seem highly varied like consulting, medicine, or law can involve the same scope and sequence of activities, even though the client, specific tools and disciplines may vary. Engagements begin to run together and we can expect that a project a year from now will be similar to ones are working on now. Changing clients or tools or processes will not get us out of our mental rut.

After running Disney for a few decades, Michael Eisner is now engaged in developing content for a private media company. He led Disney exceptionally well but yearned for something different. In a recent Harvard Business Review article venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson talks about how our workplaces reinforce developing high competencies in increasingly narrow domains. His solution is spot on - to find a way to supplement our routine with an activity as a counterpoint (his is model rocketry). The result is a fresh perspective and often a playful and creative stimulus.

Tip: Pick a diversion or hobby such as painting, gardening, music, or become an expert go player, something that requires your attention and creativity and, not the least, fun. You might be surprised how much you will begin to fuse the two and see how what you once considered routine gradually blends into your creative outlet. It will bring new insight into your consulting approaches.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  your consulting practice 

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#109: Is Your Personality Helping or Hindering Your Consulting Services?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 13, 2009
Why is it that some consultants have a personality just made for some types of clients or types of consulting services?

Our personality often influences our choice to go into consulting, the industry or discipline in which we specialize, the type and size of firm with which we choose to affiliate and, in many cases, the types of clients we choose. We rarely think about how much our personality affects our approach to consulting and the way we interact with clients.

Consider how your personality influences:
  • Your need for precision in your work
  • Your tolerances for ambiguity and risk
  • Your need to be in control of a consulting team
  • Your decisiveness in problem solving
  • Your relative preference for analytical vs. intuitive approaches
  • Your desire for self improvement
  • Your desire to "over serve" clients
  • Your preference for frank vs. diplomatic communication
  • Your ability to moderate stress
  • Your collaboration style
  • Your optimism in viewing the future, and
  • Your compulsion for order vs. flexibility.
Tip: Talk with some you know well (and with whom you are comfortable) about each other's personalities and how they might constrain or enhance your consulting skills. Note those few traits that are strongest and which you feel you couldn't (or wouldn't want to) change. Do any of these prevent you from pursuing a type of client or serving them effectively? Is there a way to compensate for this constraint, maybe by taking on a partner whose personality complements yours, or are you OK with this constraint? What personality traits are the foundation of your success as a consultant? How can you build on these strengths?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#108: Don't Start All Engagements from Scratch

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Can you provide some advice on how much to rely on client-provided reports from prior consultants' or internal staff work? If the prior recommendations were not implemented, how good can the assessments and recommendations be?

There are at least three issues here. First, don't link the lack of implementation to the quality of consultant analysis and recommendations. It may be that the client's circumstances or personnel changed before implementation could occur, or the needed investment was overruled higher in the organization. Second, the client can advise you on whether the previous work is or is not appropriate as a starting point or a complement to your work. There may be parts of the diagnosis that are great but the recommendations were unrealistic, or the engagement was expanded into areas for which the consultant was unqualified to perform. Use your judgment to evaluate the quality of each work product. Third, some consultants have aggravated clients to the point of being shown the door after providing superior service. The same recommendations coming from another advisor would be more readily accepted. How many of us have been asked in to pick up where another highly-regarded consultant has been asked to leave?

All these circumstances may indicate the relationship you are likely to have with this client and the likelihood of your own recommendations being implemented. Make sure you talk to your client about prior improvement efforts and why they did or did not succeed.

Tip: The client selected you for your judgment, experience and approach to addressing the organization’s issues. Ask for all information available, generated by both client staff and external consultants, that might provide insight, including historical perspective into your engagement. Although some clients may encourage you to use prior work, in which they have invested significant (and probably perceived as low or no return on investment), find a way to evaluate and use it within your stated project framework. Do you want the client to evaluate your effectiveness based on work done by another consultant?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  consulting process  engagement management  planning  recommendations 

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#107: Which Comes First: Change Activities or Change Results?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 10, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We all know change is hard for both organizations and people. But despite all the logical assessment, process improvement mapping, and employee buy-in, why is it still hard to make change stick?

Some change efforts are quite successful, many never gain much traction and some fail spectacularly. A lot of research has been conducted about why this is so and the conclusions are as varied as the approaches used to attempt change. One of the most logical arguments, confirmed by interviews with staff from organizations that have undergone change efforts, is that employees never really believed in the change. Most understood the rational arguments for change. Most accepted, even if it was not in their best interest, the inevitability of change. And many supported, at least nominally, the agent of change, often the chief executive.

What is often missing is the fundamental belief, a gut feeling, that this change can and must succeed. This feeling is borne out of bad experiences with change efforts that never bore fruit and a comfort with the status quo, no matter how ineffective it might seem. What is missing is often the confidence that comes from experience with successful change. If the organization has not experienced effective change then the way to create this confidence is through small productive forward steps. It is an approach promoted by Robert Schaffer and others in which, after a brief diagnostic phase to confirm direction, the consultant facilitates change efforts to produce quick wins. These small steps, involving as many staff as practicable, creates an understanding of change, visible results and the confidence needed to take on broader and more complex change tasks.

Tip: Even in an organization whose change effort requires substantial and careful planning, a series of preliminary change activities can create a more favorable change environment and culture. It will also reveal those individuals most able and committed to the larger change efforts. Finally, it provides the quick wins to show the entire organization's stakeholders that change, done right, can be both comfortable and productive.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  consultant role  customer understanding 

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#106: Scientific Literacy is Critical to Management Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, August 9, 2009
Sometimes when I try to explain to a client that the underlying premise of all consulting is to propose interventions based on diagnosis followed by a hypothesis driven recommendation that can be tested, I get blank stares. How important is it for a client to have knowledge of scientific methods?

Scientific literacy is increasingly important for effective management, as well as for being an informed citizen. A basic knowledge of scientific principles and history is essential to being able to work with and make decisions about business operations and technologies. This is not just for technology companies. Decisions about regulation and policy affecting every business are grounded in understanding of scientific principles. How your company (or you advise your client) deals with topics like corporate response to climate change legislation, decisions about facility siting, selecting effective training technologies, mitigating airborne pathogens in sealed buildings, or HIV testing of staff all require scientific knowledge.

This is not an esoteric issue, nor is scientific literacy about specialized jargon. It is understanding the fundamental principles of evidence-driven inquiry , hypothesis testing and confirmation processes every consultant is obligated to follow when proposing changes to a client's enterprise. Yet, most people are profoundly lacking in these skills. Only 7% of American adults overall, and only one in four with graduate degrees, is scientifically literate. For example, one-fifth of American adults believes the sun revolves around the Earth (something disproved centuries ago), and only half of the remainder know how long it takes the Earth to revolve around the sun. Less than half understand the principles of evolution and can apply them to explain how it works in either natural or business settings. The above examples are about basic scientific knowledge. It is unclear how many actually use scientific processes to make management decisions or provide consulting advice.

Tip: Part of your effectiveness as a consultant (beyond being scientifically literate) is to be able to assess the literacy and understanding of scientific principles of your client decision makers. If they do not fully appreciate the science and technological underpinnings of business decisions, then you are obligated to raise these. Otherwise, you are letting your clients make decisions with incomplete information. If you want to read more try Why You Should Be Scientifically Literate for an overview, or The Salience of Secular Values and Scientific Literacy for American Democracy for a more wonkish look at the impact on scientific literacy on being an informed citizen in the 21st century.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  process  professional development 

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