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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 

#981: Know Your Client's History

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 6, 2009
Updated: Friday, February 6, 2009
I recently had an epiphany when I sat down with a client's bookkeeper of more than 30 years. She told me about the culture and history of the company and it gave me insights that I never would have gotten talking to my client sponsor, who had only been at the company for a few years.

Thanks for sharing this nugget of wisdom. As consultants, we often consider our job is to address the presenting issue in the here and now. We, and often our client, neglect to fully appreciate the powerful effect that the residual culture, processes and institutional memory from years ago exerts on how an organization operates today. Given that a professional consulting engagement includes understanding the full context in which our recommendations are being made, we should not forget time as a key dimension of our environmental scan.

Tip: Build in an historical assessment as part of your environmental scan. Ask your client sponsor which employees, maybe even employees who no longer work for the organization, have the institutional memory. To the extent time is available, ask to see old newsletters and company planning and operational summaries. Board minutes that describe strategic thrusts on which the organization was built can provide insight into how it might be amenable, or resistant, to changes that you are about to suggest. You are likely to find out things that even your client sponsor doesn't know.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  consulting process  customer understanding  learning  planning 

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#980: Bringing Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 5, 2009
I am looking to create new services and products in my practice. What are some simple ways to put me in a position to do so?

Much has been written about creativity in individuals and formal processes to foster innovation in companies. What you seem to be talking about is in between, where you want to create a space for your company but where you are the company.

An adaptation of the Center for Creative Leadership's principles for innovation, which might help your consulting practice create new services:
  1. Convert problems to ideas: The stimulus for new ideas comes from being forced to focus on solving a problem. In almost every case, there are better ways to solve, or avoid, a problem. See problems as needing a new approach, not just something to power through using common wisdom.
  2. Create an innovation system: Creativity exists in all organizations and in all individuals, but it is rarely channeled and deliberate. Make innovation intentional. Set up a time and set of steps to think about the nature of problems, the inputs and processes commonly used to solve them and the satisfaction of the outcomes. Where are alternatives possible?
  3. Make your sense of pain or urgency drive innovation: New ideas may be spontaneous but translating them into actionable processes or products requires emotional attachment. You have to see excitement or promise in new ideas to move them from thought to action.
  4. Hang out with other creative people and/or people who have the same problems you face: The same thinking yields the same results. Innovation is most fertile when several disciplines come together. Make it a point to get to know consultants who work in other industries or disciplines and ask how they would solve a common problem.
Tip: Make innovation a deliberate part of your consulting strategy. Considering that professional services has about a three year life (at least that was conventional wisdom a few years ago), you need to replace or refresh a third of your services every year. Write down a few problems you'd like to solve or services you'd like to introduce. Introduce yourself to a steady stream of new consultants to discuss these ideas and help them innovate as well. This is a big reason why IMC is such a fertile generator of new consulting services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  practice management 

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#979: Getting a Fresh Perspective Through Focus Groups

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 4, 2009
My consulting practice is directed at service improvement for a small consumer products manufacturer. How can I broaden my understanding of how my client's products are being viewed by the customer when this is not part of my assignment?

The value customers place on a product or service drives (or should) its design, production and sales. Every consultant should want to expand his or her perspective to include that of the customer. Greater efficiency or lower cost for an internal process used to create a product or deliver a service is insufficient to increase customer value.

One thing you should try to arrange (if your client has not already made this part of your engagement) is to observe, or even conduct, a focus group for your client's product or service. A focus group is a qualitative research process to evaluate the attractiveness, acceptability, consumer experience or reaction to a proposed idea, service or product. Although focus group designs vary, about a dozen likely consumers, carefully selected for demographic and user characteristics, are presented with a new product or idea in a 1-2 hour facilitated session. It is feedback from this session that determines acceptability of a proposed item.

Your ability to participate in the design or facilitation of a focus group, or just to observe, can provide powerful insights into where your process improvements are best targeted. In many cases, you may hear opinions or perspectives you have never heard or even thought of. For example, focus group participants may have never heard of terms or concepts you assume all consumers are aware of. It can be a humbling experience.

Tip: Early in the engagement process, ask your client if there are any planned focus groups to test the results of the work you are tasked with. Even if this is not a consumer directed product, your internal focused process may well have impact on client staff or partners. Suggest that there may be significant value in testing the hypotheses under which your consulting engagement is designed with those "consumers" of the new, improved operations.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  customer understanding  learning  market research 

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#978: Your Rights to Work You Created for Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Over the past few years, during client assignments, I have developed what I think is a novel and powerful set of processes to provide client services. Is there any reason why I can't use these to write a book or sell to other clients?

In most cases, the work you create belongs to you. However, a more general rule is that work belongs to the person who paid for its development. For instance, any methodologies, research or ideas you create while on your own time and dime belong to you. If you are working for a public sector agency, your work products belong to the sponsoring agency and the public of the state or country whose tax dollars paid for it. If you are working for a private sector client, the disposition of the materials depends on the contract you signed.

Many consulting contracts contain a clause that relates to works for hire. It usually grants you a nonexclusive license to use the products developed at the client's expense but may have more or fewer restrictions. In some cases, you have no right to use your work (you should object to and avoid this kind of contract if possible). In other cases, you may be able to use materials with the client's permission. In the best case, you are free to use your material, even though it is a work for hire, as you see fit. Be sure to clarify this with your client.

Tip: If you believe you are developing intellectual property of potential value to you, discuss this with your clients and consulting colleagues before you begin work. This is particularly important if you jointly develop IP with colleagues because, even if the client releases you from any work for hire prohibition on use, you are still bound to obligations to your colleagues. Paragraph 12 of the IMC USA Code of Ethics deals specifically with this situation. It states, "I will respect the rights of consulting colleagues and consulting firms and will not use their proprietary information or methodologies without permission."

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  goodwill  intellectual property  knowledge assets  professionalism 

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#977: Consulting Opportunities Follow National Priorities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 2, 2009
Consulting opportunities are getting tougherwith companies putting spending on hold. Are there any bright spots?

Every new industry or expansion of an existing industry benefits from management consulting services. Successful consultants watch trends in those industries in which they have familiarity or expertise that can be adapted. Certainly the business press, futurists and years of experience can keep you abreast of emerging opportunities. However, there is one driver of consulting opportunities you should always track.

This driver is major policy initiatives of the federal government. Government spending often targets struggling industries or leads the development of new industries. In the current business environment, several tremendous consulting opportunities are being created. Beyond financial relief for individuals, the proposed stimulus bill targets road and airport infrastructure, health care technology, school building and renovation, mass transit, water infrastructure, power grid development, and distance education. Many of these projects involve complex management and operational skills (including leadership and human resources expertise), that consultants may be uniquely qualified to provide.

Tip: Look at a summary of the major policy legislation to see what opportunities exist for you. Note that the opportunities may be with the federal agencies who will manage these programs, but possibly more so with the many local companies who will implement them. For example, look at a summary of initial proposals for the stimulus package.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  trends  your consulting practice 

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