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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 

#481: Keep Your Eyes Open For Client News

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 17, 2011
I like to do a thorough review on my client companies and their markets to see what trends are likely to affect operations. However, it seems the press has become so partisan, there are few places other than paid research to get a sense of what emerging factors are relevant to my clients.

Whether or not you believe that news is increasingly partisan, it is true that news is an expensive business and deep investigative journalism, especially for local coverage, is becoming rare. It does seem that it takes more work on your part to develop a thorough picture of a company, market or industry. However, it is not impossible if you develop (and constantly refine) a process to structure information searches.

We seem to forget, in the age of Google and Deep Web search, that there are people who really know how to structure and execute information search. The right combination of library science, technology savvy, and access to a broad range of online and print resources is a tremendous asset in your knowledge search. Most of us would do well to take advantage of larger municipal, university or corporate libraries and staff. Work through a colleague, local professor or ask your client to gain access. Don't assume the browser on your computer is equivalent to the skills and tools available to someone who manages information for a living.

Tip: Don't forget that there are some serious news sources that really have a unique eye on current events. A source like the Pulitzer winning ProPublica, an investigative news organization run by the former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, is one of a few notable independent and high-quality news sources.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  customer understanding  learning  market research 

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#480: Regularly Rethink What You Know About Management Theory

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 14, 2011
Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011
As a consultant, I find it troubling to see the vigorous debate about fundamental flaws in what we all have assumed are the legitimate bases of management theory. Why isn't the consulting profession leading this discussion instead of staying on the sidelines?

I assume you are talking about Sumantra Ghoshal's 2005 paper Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices, which has been simmering for several years. Ghoshal laid out a cogent argument that the underpinnings of management and, derivatively, management consulting, are based on fundamental flaws in logic that lead to poor management priorities and practices. The consequences are destruction of capital, violations of ethics and perversion of employment practices. The "common wisdom" goals of maximizing shareholder wealth, only managing what can be measured, and characterizing people as self-interested profit maximizers are all unsupported by empirical and theoretical studies, yet we continue to teach them to managers and consultants.

My area of concern is ethical behavior and Ghoshal's premise leads to an unavoidable conclusion that we are seeing the behaviors that we have created by these false management theories. If we tell executives that their job is to maximize income, should we be surprised that financial manipulation to achieve that goal results in dozens of executives being charged with ethics violations and the evaporation of hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth as a consequence? To answer your question about why the consulting profession is not addressing these issues, it is generally not the place of consultants to recreate social or economic theories, although we should be more active in questioning why what we are selling to our clients is not having the effects it should on their performance.

Tip: Read Ghoshal's paper and many of the reactions of management theoreticians, economists, and social scientists over the past few years. It should shake your confidence in your understanding of management theory and the real wisdom of what you likely have been telling your clients about their business. Consider what you have you learned about management and spend some time exploring just how strongly it is supported by theory or facts.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  ethics  guidance  intellectual property  management theory  professionalism  recommendations  roles and responsibilities 

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#479: Start Creating Your Consulting Assets

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 13, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 13, 2011
After a dozen years in business, our consulting firm is well regarded and we are considering our long term exit strategy. We do have a good client list but are not sure how we can create value if we decide to merge or sell the business.

Intangible capital is what professional service providers have to offer but few recognize how to turn that into an asset they could sell directly or parlay into something of value. Think about what you have to offer a client. Is it your winning smile or is it the possibly unique and probably proven approach you bring to solve their problems? Is it the good feelings your clients have when you have completed your work or is it the lasting value you created through your methodologies?

What you bring of value is the ways you use knowledge, judgment and technique to turn problems into solutions, and to create value out of potential. But keeping these only in your head creates three problems. First is your inability to explain or pass them along to others to leverage your time (you do want to scale your business don't you?). Second is your inability to improve their effectiveness through testing and validation (you do want to improve your service to clients, don't you?). Third is your inability to present your intellectual property in a format that someone is capable of understanding and willing to buy (you do want to show the full value of your efforts, don't you?).

Tip: You have intellectual property that you don't realize. Start writing down the scope, sequence and content of your methodologies. Start with your current or a recent project. Flowchart the steps in the engagement and draft one-page descriptions of the challenge, approach, resources, required, solution deployment, risks and mitigation, solution, and sustainability steps. Each time you start en engagement, review these methodology descriptions to plan your work. Each time you finish an engagement, evaluate and refine your methodologies. Over time, you will produce a tangible asset you have been creating throughout your consulting career.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  product development  your consulting practice 

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#478: Get Your Recommendations Implemented

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I am sometimes disappointed by seeing my recommendations implemented poorly or not at all. The client fully accepts my analysis and findings. Why do my recommendations have so little impact on the client's organization?

Failure to effect change is usually less a result of our poor quality evaluation but our ineffective entry into the organization's decision making process. There are two areas where this can be improved.

First, many clients are reluctant to cede too much power to consultants. Without the trust of a long term relationship, a manager prefers to accept your professional findings and recommendations but retain action decisions for themselves. This is why many consulting engagements terminate at the report of findings stage and do not carry over into implementation. If your client refuses your participation in implementation, then don't be upset if they choose to make their own decisions about how to use your recommendations.

Second, and something we can do something about, is the need for consultants to better understand how our recommendations will be used before we present them. Who is really the decision maker (it may not be your client)? How are decisions made in the organization (consensus/vote, executive/unit level, fast/slow, phased/full, etc.)? What is the preferred format for presenting findings and recommendations (report, briefing, data, group discussion, side conversations)? What role do data vs. presenter credibility play (was a recognized analytical model used, are data in familiar format, and were staff broadly involved in analysis)? Do people know how the recommendations will benefit them (what's in it for various stakeholders)? What other questions can you think of that relate to acceptability of recommendations?

Tip: Superior analysis and cogent recommendations are of limited effect if you are unable to insert them into the decision making process. Starting at the beginning of the engagement, be thinking, and talk to your client, about how your recommendations will be presented.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  communication  decision making  recommendations 

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#477: Your Powers of Observation are Key to Your Consulting Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Some of my consulting colleagues start making recommendations the same day they arrive at an organization. For me, even after interviewing executives , conducting surveys, and doing secondary research, it still takes me weeks to feel comfortable making recommendations. How can I get better at diagnosis?

In management, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. Don't presume that making fast recommendations are the same as making good ones. That said, diagnosis is basically about recognizing patterns, and the speed at which you recognize patterns comes increases with experience.

Think about it. When a client describes his or her situation, do you often say "this is like the situation I read about at company X" or "this is the same as my client Y"? Do you also think that the "solution" to the situation you recognize is also similar to one you already know?

So how do we get good at pattern recognition? Read more books about management. Consult to different types of clients. Discuss situations with your colleagues. Think about how situation A is the same or different than situation B. Evaluate whether intervention A would work or not with Situation B. IMC is starting to sponsor case discussions, where members will debate issues, identify patterns and share solutions to increase the speed and depth of pattern recognition. all these strategies will build our ability to see deeper patterns than we do now. Above all, recognize the need to diagnose the pattern before prescribing action.

Tip: People vary in their ability to capture, process and retrieve information. If you don't already know about Steven Wiltshire, then think about the potential powers of observation some of us have. You won't have this ability but consider how much is possible.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  data visualization  learning 

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