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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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#576: Find What Doesn't Work and Don't Do It

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 30, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 30, 2011
It's hard to imagine, but managers do make mistakes and consultants sometimes contribute to those mistakes. Given that I don't know what I don't know, how can I be sure I am not contributing to a future mistake?

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Great advice for consultants. The more we know about the history of management, and consulting, as well as some of the best, and worst, decisions made, the better we are able to provide effective advice.

In most industries, either researchers or trade press have defined some of the worst decisions managers have made. These documents or articles are useful to review for the industries of your clients. Being conversant in these historical gaffes gives you perspective on how you can give advice that may avoid similar mistakes.

Tip: Get a jump start on your research by reading the HBSP article Seven Ways To Fail Big, based on research by paul carroll and chunka mui, who looked at 750 of the most significant u.s. business failures over the past 25 years and found that half could have been avoided. check out this research and see how it resonates with your clients or type of advice you might give in similar circumstances. You may even want to discuss these decisions with your client - it is unlikely your client's staff or other advisors are doing this - and provide some real value added.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  innovation  knowledge assets  learning  your consulting practice 

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#575: Consultants Need to Upgrade Their Tech or Go Home

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 27, 2011
Updated: Friday, May 27, 2011
My clients are traditional types, working in a traditional industry, and I provide consulting services consistent with their style. However, I feel like I should be working with the latest technologies and procedures. Is that necessary if my clients don't need it?

There are two perspectives to your concern. First, good consultants communicate with and provide services to their clients in the way that is most effective. You work in the environment and in ways that works best for them. Second, your life-long learning, professional development plan should leave you aware of and proficient in (close to) the latest technologies. Your ability to both attract new clients and better serve current clients can depend on taking advantage of every diagnostic, communication and analysis technology available.

Tip: Our clients expect us to advise them of new, if not best, practices that could benefit their organizations. Talk to your consulting colleagues, especially those not in traditional industries, to learn of new approaches to doing research, compiling data, assessing operations, mapping processes, communicating, etc. This is not to suggest that you need to be vigorously engaged in multiple social media applications. You don't have to use every new technology, just be aware of them.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#574: Make it a Regular Task to Evaluate Work-Life Balance

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 26, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2011
I find that my schedule tends to be erratic, fairly unstructured and, since I work out of an office in my home, my family often finds my work hours disruptive. I am disciplined in my business so why does this work-life balance seem to slip so easily?

Many consultants share your concerns. What will make you and your family happy and at the same time allow you to be more productive and get more business?

Establishing an effective work–life balance is not an easy task, but it can start with a simple discussion with your family. Do you understand what is driving their unhappiness with your work schedule? Does your family understand the challenges you need to address in your work day? Perhaps some collaborative problem–solving and brainstorming with your family can result in a workable model that pleases both parties.

Sometimes, truly elegant solutions to this problem can be found in some fairly obvious places. For example, while many people sleep through the early morning hours, there is an excellent opportunity to get up earlier and be able to work in a quiet environment without common distractions found during the workday (i.e., phone calls, etc.). The early morning is a great time for reading e-mails, writing, planning, preparing reports, rehearsing presentations, etc.

Tip: Achieving a good work–life balance is critically important. Always remember that you are in almost total control of your time and have the ability to adjust your hours wherever you see fit. Remember the old saying: "Work to live. Don't live to work!" But, perhaps most important, is to set a regular schedule (quarterly is a good interval) to formally review your balance. Is it satisfying? Has it slipped? If so, why? What conditions are in your control or beyond your control that made it so? What is your explicit plan to restore your desired balance?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  evaluation  values  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#573: Do You Really See Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Some people want the consulting-client relationship to be all business and others are not so strict. When is it appropriate to get to know a client personally instead of just professionally?

Professionalism does not dictate that you necessarily be "all business, all the time." Also, consider that "personal" and "business" do not constitute the end points of a relationship continuum. These are two of many aspects of a relationship that range from deep to shallow. The extent to which you engage your client personally depends on interpersonal chemistry and any concerns about actual or perceived conflicts of interest. The extent to which you engage your client on business aspects depends on the nature of the engagement.

One thing that every consultant should understand is that everyone likes to be acknowledged and respected. It is painful to watch some consultants ignore junior staff during project meetings, or to talk about people in the third person in their presence. Some may do this because they don't want to get too personal with client staff, presuming that their relationship with the client is only with the executive. Others may behave this way because they really don't have respect for those outside the line of sight between consulting engagement manager and client sponsor. I hear this mostly from clients talking about larger consulting firms, where it is more likely that roles of marketing, selling, service and quality assurance are separated. But it is not firm size, per se, that creates this problem for clients, but the lack of seeing the whole client and staff through the whole relationship.

Tip: Regardless of consulting firm size or separation of roles, it is incumbent on the consultant to be sure that they really "see" the client across both business and personal areas. At a minimum, if you don't really get to know the personal issues of the staff and all stakeholders across whose paths your engagement takes you, are you really fulfilling your ethical and professional obligation to give full understanding, independence and objectivity to your diagnosis, findings and recommendations?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  client staff  consultant role  customer understanding  goodwill  professionalism 

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#572: When Hiring Staff, Go Beyond the Resume

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Although HR is not the focus of our consulting practice, our clients occasionally ask for our help when they hire staff. We do look at resumes the give us but, since we have a sense of where the client organization is headed, we'd rather weigh in on the candidate's suitability for the emerging company, not just their eligibility for the posted position. Are there any ethical issues here, since we are recommending candidates based on our view of an organization that does not yet exist?

This is an interesting quandary. First, you are advising your client in areas in which you admit is not your strong capability. Second, you reject the client's request to give an opinion based on eligibility. Third, your approach is appropriate, since hiring is generally based on eligibility while firing is based on (lack of) suitability. Finally, you are orienting your selection criteria toward a future that you are advising your client to pursue but that may or may not come to pass. The principal ethical issues are whether you should be advising your client in HR issues and whether there is an inherent conflict with your assumed future being based on your recommendations. It seems like giving HR advice under these conditions merits full disclosure and extreme caution.

However, you do raise an important issue in hiring, whether for your client or your own firm. Resumes continue to be a dominant source of input to a hiring selection, even though as often as not they contain errors or misstatements (A SHRM survey found 60% of hiring executives found mistakes on resumes and a resume counseling service reported over 40% of resumes contained major misstatements). What we look for is an indication of what the person can do in the job, not what they did in other jobs. Nor do they reveal the traits that matter most in job suitability (e.g., honesty, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, response to stress, sense of urgency, commitment to mission, agility).

Tip: Know the essential traits for both the position and the organization in which it will function, how they will result in the kind of outputs and outcomes you seek, and (through assessment, case analyses or actual problem solving and interaction) see firsthand how the person will work in the likely work culture and environment.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  hiring 

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