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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 

#386: Don't Create Complex When Simple is Needed

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 6, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 6, 2010
I was recently called in to "fix" the work of another consulting firm. The prior engagement called for a straightforward reorganization and the firm brought in seven consultants who created a structure and transformation process that was so complicated that the company abandoned implementation midstream. Is this common or is it more common for the client to just not follow through on a good plan?

The question is common and the answer is really simple. If the client is unable to implement the consultant's recommendations effectively, the fault primarily lies with the consultant. Now, before you say that the consultant delivered a competent plan but the client fouled it up, remember that the consultant is responsible for providing advice that leads to improvement in the client's condition. That means after implementation, not after plan delivery. If a consulting firm knows it will not be able to manage or facilitate the implementation, it is obligated to provide a workable plan or withdraw from the engagement.

Consultants are brought in to help a client get better and, more often than not, this means simplifying structure and processes. What you design should be as simple as possible to maximize the odds of it being implemented and sustained (whether you are involved in implementation or not).

Tip: Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." This is good advice for consultants when they get excited about "building" new structures or processes on a client’s existing situation. Focus on making the client’s issues as simple as possible, not adding on your own complexity.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client service  consulting process  professionalism  recommendations 

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#385: Debunking Myths

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 3, 2010
Updated: Friday, September 3, 2010
Why is it so hard to get clients, or colleagues for that matter, to believe the findings of assessments or research? Some people seem to stick to what they think they know and not open up to new evidence. Am I just not presenting it in the right way?

The saying "Logic can't displace what was learned by emotion," means that once someone is emotionally invested in an idea, it is hard to present facts and expect them to change their minds. Speaking of minds, we all know that we only use 10% of our brains.

This is not true. And it never was. It is a myth that even many doctors believe, having heard it so many times. Whether started by misinterpretation or intent, certain "facts" are hard to change in people's minds. The 10% (or 5% or 15%) of our minds that we use is likely Dale Carnegie's misinterpretation of Karl Lashley's experiments with rats in the 1920s to see how much of the brain could be removed without impairing function. Even though the result was that very little of the brain could be removed without impact, some rats could relearn tasks with most (but never as much as 90%) of their brain removed. And so the myth was born, for purposes of self improvement, that we used only a small amount of our potential and, through diligent effort, we could improve ourselves.

Repeated enough times, this 10% has become a "fact" that, even now, you are probably thinking that you need to see some hard evidence that the 10% is not true - even though you never saw any "evidence" that the 10% number was true.

Tip: Be prepared to back up your findings with logic and fact, but most of all, bring an understanding of where the "myths" came from that you are trying to overcome. Only when you understand why someone believes something will you be able to develop a strategy for debunking those myths.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  education  knowledge assets  learning 

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#384: Consultants Must Know the Source of Management Concepts and Practices

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 2, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2010
How important is it to know the history of management theory as long as I know how to improve my client’s situation?

While there is a case to be made that many "new" management theories developed by researchers, practitioners and consultants are variations of existing concepts, it is still important to know their pedigree. I am not suggesting that you need to know them in enough detail to write a research paper complete with footnotes. I am suggesting you should know where they came from, why they were initially developed and whether the conditions from which theory were developed still apply to your client’s circumstances. The alternative is to keep applying what might have been, at some time in the past, a "best practice" but has ceased to be so.

Every management consultant should all understanding why some concepts, such as those developed by Whyte, Cyert and March, Simon, or Kuhn were and still are relevant. We also should be aware of why some others were tenuous at the time of their introduction, despite their popularity in the media, and are largely inapplicable now. Part of this should be aimed at understanding the circumstances under which a theory or associated consulting practice was "cast out" of the profession. For example, TQM had its day, but was its fall from grace due to a poor theory, inappropriate implementation, or being displaced by incremental theories that are rally a variation on the same theme from which TQM was derived in the first place.

Tip: Find some of the older management texts (look on Amazon under used books) that can summarize early 20th century management concepts, based on the understanding of the day. William Whyte's The Organization Man and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions are still amazing reads. If you want the abbreviated version, try a primer on management theories.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  customer understanding  learning  professional development  professionalism 

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#383: Speaking Won't Give Away Your Company Secrets

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The few times I have done some public speaking, I can't help but feel as though I am giving away too many "company secrets." Is there a way I can keep from doing this?

Probably like many consultants, we worry that our speaking presentations will "give away the store." We think that to give a compelling speech, we will tell my audience too much and will cannibalize our opportunities to attract new business.

One reaction is to turn our presentations into blatant advertisements for our services, beating people over the head with the idea that they should buy our products or services. Conversely, we may hide so much content, it seems as though we do know a lot but aren't willing to share it.

Instead of seeing this as "giving away everything," the opposite is actually true. Only by generating trust and eliminating high-pressure sales tactics will we succeed in coaxing new customers out of an audience. So lighten up and be willing to share your knowledge and expertise liberally. The trust you generate in return will more than make up for any imagined "stealing" of your hard-won secrets.

Tip: If you think someone will "steal" your ideas from a single speech, then prepare a combination of speeches, white papers and workshops to roll out your new research or ideas. This way, it is clear that they are yours alone and that they have value.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  presentations  publicity  reputation  speaking 

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#382 : You Can Now Buy Consulting Services From The Menu

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
It seems that increasingly I am underbid by someone offering fixed rate services at rates that I can't compete with. My consulting service is impeccable and clients seem to keep coming back, but I am afraid my competitors will continue to cut into my business. Any advice?

You are not dreaming about this phenomenon. Services are increasingly being commoditized and sold off schedules. This started in force with the federal government that, along with health care, is the largest consumer of management consulting services. Want a strategic plan? Buy it off the schedule. Need to train your staff in lean manufacturing? Again, pick from a menu of vendors, some much lower priced than others.

Some consulting services are really commoditized. They are becoming undifferentiated in the eyes of the consumer, despite our feelings of how unique they are. This has become especially true of assessments and training. Need to "check out" your people? "Hire a firm to do a DISC, Harrison, MBTI, Prevue or any other one. They're all the same so just get me the cheapest one."

To see an example of this phenomenon, go to GSA Advantage, the government's procurement schedule. Search for "strategic plan" and see if your prices and offerings can compete with the 4,000 companies who will sell you one. (Note that the federal government negotiates rates that are discounted from commercial rates.)

Tip: Create a menu of your services. How would you sell a specific outcome (e.g., marketing plan, performance measurement system, process design, more effective sales force, supply chain security) for a fixed price? Not easy, is it? Put yourself in a client's shoes. Menu pricing makes it easier to see if you are providing something of value and not based on your hourly rate - you may be over or under pricing your services. With that warning in mind, the only way to compete with commoditized services offered by your competitors is through differentiation of your services in the mind of the client - the a la carte items that can't be sold as substitutes of each other.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  market research  marketing  product development  proposals 

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