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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#996: Being Thorough in Your Diagnosis

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 27, 2009
If solid diagnosis is the foundation for effective organizational change, what is a good way to structure my recommendations?

There is no excuse for sloppy description of an otherwise solid diagnosis. How you present your results affects how well they are understood, accepted and implemented. One good way is how many financial analyses and audits are presented:
  • Material Weakness - a description of the facts in evidence that bear attention by management.
  • Cause of Condition - the source of the material condition and why this condition exists (and what the recommendation seeks to alleviate).
  • Effect - how this condition affects the organization's core needs or performance, in effect the reason you are recommending the organization address this as a priority.
  • Recommendation - what actions the organization should take to eliminate the effect and prevent reoccurrence of weakness.
One of the real benefits of this approach is its ability to clearly document your diagnosis for future use. When consultants make recommendations for their clients, everyone usually understands the implications at the time they are made. However, six months or a few years later, the nuances of your findings and recommendations are lost. This format should help make the value of your diagnosis last.

Tip: This format will help you be very clear about the subtleties of your findings and recommendations. Propose a specific format, with a few examples, of how you will characterize your diagnosis, and review with your client.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  communication  recommendations 

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#995: Are You Known as a "Trouble Free" Consultant?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 26, 2009
I have a colleague (really, it is not me) who is a very competent consultant but has almost no follow on work. He is pretty opinionated and I wonder if this is a factor.

Every consultant would love to have a reputation as competent and ethical. We secretly want prospective clients to think ofus as advisors who see their needs and have the tools and techniques ready to solve their problems. When we complete the engagement, they can't refer us enough to their friends for our consulting acumen.

What's missing here is how we are as a professional partner or colleague. We all know really smart and ethicalconsultants who are a pain. Your friend may have all the business acumen in the world but if he or she lacks emotionalintelligence, interpersonal skills or can't get in sync with the client culture, it is a good bet that they will be tagged as someone who is hard to work with.

Tip: As part of your debrief on the way out the door (and as early in the engagement, if you can manage it), ask both your client sponsor and some subordinates who know your work how you were to work with. If the reviews come back that you are good but hard to work with, you know what you have to work on.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  client service  professionalism  reputation 

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#994: Design/Build Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Prospects are sometimes reluctant to start an engagement until they see the full scope of the process but can't see the scope until they start and complete some diagnostics. How can I get past this constraint?

This is always in a manager's mind but probably more so in these risk-averse times. From the manager's perspective, he or she wants to assure that money and staff time are well spent and wants to know the scope, sequence and content of consulting tasks. From the consultant's perspective, we want to conduct some diagnostics first before laying out the full scope of the engagement, even though we have a pretty good idea of how we would proceed. In management, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The building industry figured this out years ago when building slowed down. They developed the design/build concept, where a single firm would do the architectural design work prior to building. Once the project was clear, the buyer could go out and find the best builder. However, the buyer had already established a trust in the design phase and was familiar with the design itself. More often than not, the buyer would select the firm it knew. By offering both services, the project was both more efficient and better for the builder.

Tip: Offer to provide both design and build services for consulting work. Approach a prospect in need and offer to scope out the work using fast track diagnostics and limited interviews. For a low price and risk, you can provide the prospect an objective and independent view of what might be needed in an improvement project. They are under no obligation to use your services but you reserve the right to bid on any request for services they issue. The client receives valuable perspectives from you, gets a chance to know you without any obligation, and you get insight into how best to serve. Sounds like a good plan all around.
© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  sales 

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#993: Performance Evaluations by a Client on Your Own Work

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 24, 2009
When an engagement is over, I do a "post-mortem" on my work, but I have a hard time getting the client to provide much feedback. How can I get honest and useful feedback?

This is a great question. Clients engage us to diagnose and provide improvement advice. Yet, there is no reason why we shouldn't hold ourselves to the same standard. The effectiveness of our services should be evaluated at the same time we evaluate the performance of the project as a whole. This kind of feedback (more than "nice job") is what helps us to become better consultants.

As part of any engagement, one of the last activities a consultant does is to conduct a formal engagement evaluation. Here we address whether the project design was adequate to the needs of the client, whether the client developed the necessary technologies and capabilities from the engagement, and how well the client's situation is likely to sustain itself after we leave. All of this is common practice by a good consultant, but it leaves out one thing - an evaluation specifically of the consultant.

Tip: Make sure the client understands at the outset of the engagement that you hold yourself and your consulting processes to the same standards he or she does. Build in to the project evaluation an explicit step to examine determine your process was effective, whether your behavior was professional, whether your interpersonal skills were appropriate. Lay out a formal process with clear measures of what you consider success. There is no better way to show your professionalism and to get the kind of feedback that will raise your game.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  performance improvement  professional development 

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#992: Your "Be Prepared" Toolkit

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 23, 2009
What are some of the things a consultant should have with them when giving a presentation? I don't want to carry a suitcase but feel like there are probably some essentials.

Every so often, consultants show up at a meeting, facilitation session or workshop wishing they had an item that could make a big difference. It might be a whiteboard marker (all the ones there were dry), post it notes (it would have made quickly collecting client ideas easier), Ethernet cable (client wireless network went down), flash drive (needed to use client's laptop when yours died), or extra marketing materials (when a prospect asks, it pays to be ready).

There are a few items in your toolkit that can save the day. First is a three pronged electrical adapter (when wall plugs are only two prongs). How would you like not being able to do your presentation because you can't plug in your projector? Second is a digital camera. It is able to record the contents of a white board or capture images of the attendees at a meeting. Finally, a digital voice recorder is often very useful for capturing details of an interview or meeting when taking notes is impractical.

Tip: Think through all the times in a meeting, workshop or presentation where you or someone else either had or didn't have some item, tool or component that made a difference. Make a list of those items and check it before each time you leave the office. It is even possible to have a small box or case packed with the items on your list you can grab on your way out the door or keep in your car.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  meeting preparation  practice management 

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