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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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#416: Animate Your Way to Clearer Client Understanding

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 18, 2010
Updated: Monday, October 18, 2010
I am looking for a more effective way to get complex ideas and conclusions across to my clients. Simple may be understandable but doesn't provide enough content. Complex is sufficient but overwhelms the listener. I'd like to include things like narrative, storytelling, and media to provide a richer experience without the cost of a media show, which the client would likely see as over the top. Is there a middle ground?

One of a consultant's main obligations to the client is to make sure the client understands the rich details of the findings and recommendations. It is not enough to dazzle them with your brilliance if they don't get your point or get too much to remember. As long as you can justify it for the purpose of understanding, using whatever media you can to accommodate different learning styles of your audience is not over the top.

Also consider both the immediate and residual learning opportunities of getting your point across. Your client doesn't have to swallow your content all in one bite, or at one sitting. Some consultants think the "final briefing" should be a fusillade of content, delivering everything we have accumulated and generated. It doesn't have to be. If the goal is understanding, consider the delivery like serving a meal - in courses, at a comfortable pace. Also, make sure that the materials you leave behind can be referenced to support your presentation and provide additional details as needed.

Tip: Even if you deliver work products in small pieces, there is still the issue of having them remember. Spend some time looking at the way RSA Animate to see how effective animated storytelling can be to get across complex ideas. After watching this, you will agree that this has some interesting applications for consultants to deliver a memorable and compelling briefing "experience." (There are several of these superb conceptual briefing animations available).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  customer understanding  innovation  presentations 

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#415: Consultants Do Well to Think Outside the Plane

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 15, 2010
Updated: Friday, October 15, 2010
I read a lot of business and management books and journals to come up with new services for my clients and extend my practice. Yet, what I have come up with are services many others already provide. What other ways can you suggest I could "think outside the box" to get new ideas?

You may have just answered your own question. If you are reading the same journals and books as everyone else, you will come up with the same "solutions" they do.

What I am about to suggest is anathema to most left brain consultants. However, if you want to get good at something, then spend time with the people who are already good at it. If it is creativity you seek, then spending some time with artists (choose your medium) and cut loose from your same way of thinking.

Consider the papercut work of Peter Callesen . The challenge was to see what can be done with a single sheet of paper. The results are absolutely amazing - and each entry is different in its own way. After spending some time contemplating all the different ways the artist created something entirely new when presented with a challenging constraint, what methods will you use to create new services or approaches to your existing services?

Tip: See the incredible results of his creativity and his ability to see beyond the two-dimensions of a sheet of paper.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  creativity  innovation  learning  product development 

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#414: Engage Your Client in the Solution to Increase Acceptance

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 14, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 14, 2010
I believe I am paid as a consultant to bring my expertise and experience to the client's situation. I do get input from the client and staff but don't know how much involvement is enough. At some point, I am just educating staff, and that is not what the client is paying me for.

You are looking at this situation the right way - using staff as needed for valid diagnostics but not spending time on non-value added (per your scope of services) activities. However, let's consider another aspect of the engagement. If you are exceptionally cost-efficient in diagnosis and solution design but lose momentum or fail in implementation, then this was all for naught.

In almost every case, clients need to be part of the solution (sometimes diagnosis as well) to be enthused and supportive of solution implementation. Take the now-famous example of Edward Bernays, who used the psychological research of Freud (his uncle, by the way) to change some fundamental aspects of marketing and influence and coined the term "public relations." The point was not to appeal to reason but to the subconscious feelings of the buyer (e.g., using sex to sell cars).

The story goes that Bernays realized that women in the 1940s were not buying cake mixes because they felt ashamed to give it to their husbands because they were doing so little work. Bernays advised Betty Crocker that changing the formula to require the addition of a fresh egg would change the way women felt about this. The strategy worked. Women felt they had done enough to deserve praise for their baking and the cake mix sales skyrocketed, a process we see today, even though the original conditions no longer exist. (More detailed videos of this effect).

Tip: For the reason people who assemble their own furniture are so loyal to the IKEA brand, your clients will accept and embrace your work if they are given an active part in its development.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  customer understanding  engagement management 

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#413: Do Some Mini Research

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I'd like a better understanding of an issue in my industry but I don't see any published research or trends on it. How can I find out what research has been done?

There are two assumptions built into your question that may be wrong. First, that current research already exists on this topic and that you just are having a hard time finding it. Second, don't assume you can't do this research yourself.

You can hire a research company, get an intern from a local business school or college, or do the research yourself. Market research firms can provide you with insight on how to conduct research and who to target. If you are comfortable with research design and understand your market, you may want to ask for support from a local business school or executive MBA program, which often conduct low cost consulting and research services.

Here's an idea that will get you some quick information on current business conditions and trends as well as possibly good business leads. Consider conducting a quick survey targeted specifically at an issue or question in your area of expertise.

Let's say you provide strategy development for scientific companies and are curious about how such companies are planning to weather the expected recession. Use one of the many Internet survey tools like SurveyMonkey to ask a few questions about the state of the industry, alternative strategies, and expectations about how important strategic planning services are in the near term. You can create a list of potential respondents from business directories or mailing lists.

Tip: Within an hour you can create and send out a survey to a hundred or so key players in your field. Offer a copy of the results and an analysis to respondents. Use the results (whose validity depends on the response rate) to write a white paper on the topics covered. You now have some insight into your market, an opportunity to do some targeted thinking and analysis to support your white paper, and some (opt in only) prospects in your area.

P.S. Depending on the success of this approach, you might make the survey a regular - low-cost, high- visibility - research project.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  consulting process  learning  market research 

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#412: Think Twice About Accepting an Assignment from Your Client's Competitor

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I have been working for a year with a major manufacturer. A few days ago, I received a call from my client's direct competitor, inquiring if I would be interested in performing some ad-hoc analysis for them. Although I certainly do not want to jeopardize the great relationship I have built with my largest client, accepting this assignment might result in obtaining more significant work from them in the future. Can you foresee any potential ethical issues with accepting this offer while continuing to work with my current client?

When you consider accepting simultaneous assignments (or similar subsequent work) with competitors, there is always a risk that either side might suspect some type of impropriety or conflict of interest, even if you don't. The IMC Code of Ethics (COE) provides guidance in avoiding such conflicts by recommending that members fully disclose details of the proposed assignment to both clients and obtaining express, written permission from both parties before accepting the work.

If either party raises concerns over the proposed work arrangement and these concerns cannot be resolved, the consultant should express a willingness to reject the new assignment (or withdraw from both assignments, if necessary). I have done this whenworking for two cllients who were facing each other in court. A full and advance disclosure and offer to withdraw resulted in both clietns accpeting my continued work for them, both noting that my CMC designation and commitment to ethics made a difference to them.

Even if the new arrangement is fully disclosed and permission to proceed is mutually granted, actively working for competing clients may have unforeseen risks. For example, a conflict of interest could develop from the unintentional sharing of client- proprietary information. You must be extremely careful not to apply specific solutions designed for one client to those of a competitor without mutual, express permission. Breaches in confidentiality may also result from carelessness (e.g., casual conversation overheard in public) or even by not employing proper data safeguarding (e.g., passwords, encryption, document destruction, etc.).

Tip: Following the COE, and then some, is the best way to avoid client dissatisfaction with your services and potentially irreversible damage to your professional reputation.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  trust  your consulting practice 

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