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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 

#711: Bounce Back From Mistakes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 5, 2011
Updated: Monday, December 5, 2011
I really screwed up at a client. It was an honest mistake, or at least it was unintended. My concern is that it may have caused problems in related areas of the company of which I am unaware. Consultants are supposed to be the experts so the gut instinct is to fix the problem quickly, tell those who are affected, and figure out how to not let again. Anything else?

We all make a mistake now and then. Most of us admit it to ourselves. Some even admit it to others. There are two concerns in a situation like yours for a consultant's mistakes.

First, you cannot possibly know the extent of the impact your mistake will have and the extent to which it ripples through the company and its stakeholders. A consultant cannot have deep insight into how a company's informational, social and power networks really work until they have been there for years. Therefore, you need to fully disclose to management and encourage them to disclose across the enterprise what happened. If done quickly enough, you might be able to stop the propagation of the mistake throughout the organization. Delay (e.g., seeing if you can minimize the damage yourself) can be deadly to your client.

Second, it is a cliché but research bears supports the conclusion that one of the most powerful sources of personal and organizational growth come from making, and fixing, mistakes. Air crews and hospitals both have technical environments with fast paced operations and hierarchical power structures. When mistakes in those settings are suppressed, they tend to amplify the likelihood of future hits to performance. As hard as it is, get the mistake out in the open, take your licks and own the process to make sure it won't happen again.

Tip: Take a quick look at an article on recovering from mistakes in business for some examples to give you heart and some references. As hard as it might be to keep pushing your mistake out in the open, you have a rare opportunity to turn your mistake into a problem solving initiative that benefits the client beyond the scope of your initial engagement.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  learning  professionalism  reputation  trust 

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#710: Go Hire Yourself an Intern

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 2, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 2, 2011
Serving clients and working to find new ones leave little time for market research and doing some practice development work. I don't want to take on a partner right now, but what about using interns on a part time basis?

Many companies hire interns to supplement their staff. College and graduate students are looking for part time or summer opportunities to get experience in business, and consulting is a great opportunity to see a variety of situations and get some guidance in how business works.

There are some tradeoffs in hiring an intern. While they usually work for little or no salary, they usually have limited experience. This does not mean they do not have technical knowledge (e.g., graduate business students, or marketing students) or some practical skills (e.g., students with significant web design or development expertise). It does mean, however, that they look to you for guidance and your time as a teacher.

How do you find an intern? Ask your consulting colleagues. Check with local colleges and universities. Students looking for part time or summer work notify university career centers of their availability and interests. Contact these career centers with any opportunity you can offer and ask who they might recommend for your needs. Let them know that your needs may be intermittent and to stay on the lookout for There is no cost to call. You might be surprised by what resources are available to you.

Tip: A good intern or series of interns provides you with a good list of possible junior people to hire, or to refer to colleagues, once they become available full time.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  intern  practice management  teaming  your consulting practice 

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#709: Play Nicely With Your Client's Other Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011
During some of my engagements there are other consultants working for the same client. Occasionally, one of these firms or an individual consultant will bad mouth my firm or withhold information that is helpful to our work. Should I tell the client about this or will they see this as whining?

Let me share something a client once told me about a similar situation. The client said that, in her experience, consultants often seem to think that they are somehow floating through the company without anyone really knowing what they are doing. In reality, she said she is keenly aware of how consultants interact with each other. The quality of this interaction and mutual support was one of her most important bases of evaluation of the consultant. If a consultant is sandbagging or bad mouthing another consultant, she knows about it and usually will take action to correct it. If she didn't know about it, she wanted to know about any unprofessional behavior that was hurting client services

Your responsibility is to deliver the best value to your client possible. If you are not coordinating with other consultants working for the same client, you are not delivering the best value you can. Your client hired a group of consultants to solve specific problems or capture opportunities. Your service is better if you understand their tasks, which, since your firm was not selected for the work, probably is in an area you may not fully understand.

Tip: Take the initiative to introduce yourself to other consultants working for the same client. Ask your client if there are other consultants working on related problems and if he or she would make the introductions. Independently, suggest to (or ask) your client how you should work together and how or if you should bring concerns you observe to his or her attention. Emphasize that your ethics (this is a specific provision of paragraph 11 of the IMC USA Code of Ethics) require you to report negligent or dangerous behavior or malfeasance to the appropriate authority in your client's organization. Your client will respect you for your professionalism and the value of your services will increase.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA.

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  consulting colleagues  ethics 

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#708: Consultants Must Understand "Big Data"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Clients are asking us to help them analyze large datasets of what traditionally would be considered peripheral data - the kind of data collected but never intended to be used. Is this something that other consultants are being asked to do and in which we should develop a capability?

The past few decades have seen an exponential increase in both intensive and extensive data collection. The sources of these data range from discrete business processes to consumer behavior to geographical information to global finance. The resulting aggregate datasets provide an unprecedented ability to analyze trends and patterns of complex behaviors in business, politics and consumer behavior. We have also developed prodigious new technologies to collect, store, search, visualize, analyze and share these data. With deference to privacy concerns, the ability to link these datasets to each other provides the analytical foundation to model and understand and predict future behavior of complex systems.

The term "big data" refers to datasets that exceed the capability of traditional commercially available analytical software. What could Walmart do with the data from 1 million transactions per hour? How about a marketer and millions of LinkedIn person to person connections? Consider the implications fro healthcare, finance, manufacturing, services, government and R&D, with estimates of savings from use of big data ranging into the hundreds of billions annually in the US alone. As companies are more able to collect and use larger data sets, consultants must be aware of the potential applications and the techniques available to them. A growing number of companies are specializing in big data service, whose activities ar a good idea to follow and whose services you could use to best serve your clients.

Tip: The McKinsey Global Institute issued a report Big Data; The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity That discusses these concepts and provides a good insight into where consultants are most needed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology  data visualization  information management  innovation  knowledge assets  knowledge management  trends 

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#707: Increase Your Consulting S/N Ratio

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Consultants appreciate a client who provides a lot of information to begin an engagement if it helps us get up to speed and avoids redoing analyses already done or data already collected. Recently, however, many clients "helpfully" give us every bit of data they have to start an engagement, which can be a real burden. How do we efficiently use it without incurring a scope increase just to sort through it?

Of course we want just the relevant data and not an invitation to view the client's file room. Both the consultant and client share the responsibility for information triage. In electronics, a measure of signal quality relative to the background noise is the S/N (signal to noise) ratio. This is a useful concept for consultants starting a project. Your first weeks often involve digesting data (hopefully information), product and market research, personnel records, strategy and planning documents, and the opinions of many people inside and outside the organization.

You want to increase the signal (accurate, timely, relevant, quality and usable information) to noise (inaccurate, outdated, irrelevant, low quality, and false information) ratio. Without straying into electronics engineering, the preferred approach to improve the measurement of the desired signal is to minimize the interference of background noise. This means working with the client to specify only that information (sometimes raw data) that you have a process to use. It is easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to absorb all the available information and then decide how to use it. Stick to your information management and analysis plan (you did specify these in your engagement project plan, right?) and the noise will decrease.

Tip: The concept of signal to noise ratio is useful in other areas. What is your website's S/N ratio (useful and sticky information compared to total content)? What about your presentations (how many PowerPoint slides does it take to make your point compared to the total size of the slide deck)? Your marketing (how often do prospects have to ask follow up questions about your marketing calls)? Increase your consulting S/N ratio in all your communication.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  communication  customer understanding  diagnosis  information management 

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