Print Page  |  Contact Us  |  Your Cart  |  Sign In  |  Join IMC USA
Daily Tips for Consultants
Blog Home All Blogs
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.

 

Search all posts for:   

 

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 

#730: Prove That Your Consulting Practices Are Effective

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 30, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011
How would you recommend management consulting as a whole improve its effectiveness?

The traditional definition says, "A management consultant is a professional who, for a fee, provides independent and objective advice to management of client organizations to define and achieve their goals through improved utilization of resources." Buried in this widely held definition lies the challenge for consultants. "Independent and objective" often ends up interpreted as thinking in novel ways about business and management, adapting a presumed "best practice" to a new situation or developing entire new management concepts to promote a portfolio of services with which we are familiar and practiced. Nowhere is the primacy of evaluation and proof that what we are proposing actually works. Many of commonly used and highly promoted consulting practices lack validation. To be sure, our approaches are logical, they align with other management theories and our client seem to have done OK after we applied them. Where is our proof of value? Evidence-based intervention is increasingly required in medicine, but not for consulting.

We as professionals need to develop a deeper capability to recommend and deliver to our clients only those practices and strategies that are provably effective. Proving effectiveness is hard, which is why it is rarely pursued. So we develop consulting approaches that are:
  • Too old - we propose approaches that were (maybe) effective a decade ago when the economy, culture and management practices were entirely different but are no longer applicable.
  • Too new - we propose something we just read about in a management journal (most of which these days are written by consultants) but that has only been tried a few times, much less proven effective widely or over the long term.
  • Too abstract - we propose convoluted and theoretical processes that we understand well but for which the client and staff have no realistic capability to adopt or sustain.
A healthy skepticism to consulting techniques is our best defense against obsolescence as a profession and as individual consultants. Look at most "standard" management concepts from the past thirty years and you can find legitimate and well researched evidence why they are inappropriate for consultants to apply in many circumstances and potentially hazardous in others. We are now fully into a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) where the pace and scope of business exceeds the ability of any individual to think through improvement approaches by him or herself. The standard of proof for consulting effectiveness will continue to increase.

Tip: Seek out disconfirming evidence for every concept, process, approach or technique you have in your consulting portfolio. There are good resources available. For an overview of how to think critically about your consulting approach at a high level, read carefully Flawed Advice and the Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They're Getting Good Advice and When They're Not. For a more specific critique of individual techniques, look at Calling a Halt to Mindless Change: A Plea for Commonsense Management. Being a true professional means that, before we promote approaches we assume to be effective, we make sure we can defend our current practices in the face of logic and evidence that they neither make sense nor really work all that well.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  assessment  client service  consulting process  consulting skills  consulting terminology  consulting tools  diagnosis  education  innovation  learning  management theory  methodology  performance improvement  practice management  professional development  professionalism  quality  roles and responsibilities  sustainability  technology  trust  values  your consulting practice 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#712: Mind Mapping is a Powerful Consultant's Tool

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Laying out a plan of action for a new client engagement can be pretty complicated, especially if I then have to relate my thought processes to colleagues or client staff. What are some good ways to streamline the process?

If by streamlining the process you mean thinking through the elements of your engagement strategy more fully and articulating your approach more clearly, then you might try mind mapping. The process of mind mapping has been used for many years by educators, psychologists and story tellers to convey visually a series of thoughts, ideas, processes, and concepts. Rather than trying to represent these highly interconnected ideas through linear prose, a mind map visually represents ideas in a loosely radial, tree like structure (or other visual constructs).

With recent technological advances, mind maps can be much more than just graphics. White boards have replaced chalk boards as a major technological advance in drawing mind maps (that was a joke). The real advance is in software that can categorize concepts and redraw the overall mind map for more clarity, spatial organization and analysis.

The simplest mind map software tools are simply sophisticated drawing tools (sort of like Visio on steroids). These are most helpful if you are already very well organized and have the map in your head. Other tools will let you insert concepts hierarchically and reorganize, selectively display and even visualize in 3 dimensions. The most powerful tools have a strong operations and cognitive research base.

Tip: The best way to get started in mind mapping is to try out some the free (or at least free trial) mapping tools. Click here for a list of candidate mind map tools. (prepare for information overload on mind mapping books, comments and software). Start with a simple version (most companies have basic, corporate and enterprise versions) until you get the hang of the concept and a tool. Although not an explicit endorsement, I have found iMindMap a pretty robust solution for consultants and the company site's tutorials helpful to understand mapping concepts. Forward this Tip to colleagues who might find it valuable.
Let them know you want to help them in their business.


© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  consulting tools  presentations 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#693: What is Your Consulting "Killer App?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
If many of the services a consultant provides (e.g., assessments, process reengineering, market research) are increasingly commoditized, and the pace of change in most industries renders "long experience" less valuable, what is left to the professional consultant to differentiate their services from any other consultant?

Every discipline, business and individual has something that differentiates it from its competitors. It could be the unique value proposition, the proprietary technology or the brand. Given the nature of the profession and the implied value of creative, customized service, the equivalent for a management consultant might be called the "killer app."

The definition of a killer app (applied to computer programs) is a program or element of a program that makes it indispensible to the operation of a larger program or a "must have" product that compels purchase of the platform on which it resides. Bill Gates described Internet Explorer as a killer app in that it was so useful that it would induce people to buy Microsoft products. In the same sense, consider consultants who have a similar service, database or capability that is so powerful that it compels clients to seek them out - despite the fact that most of their services are indistinguishable from those of other consultants. The platform is your suite of consulting services, among which is your killer app.

This is a similar to a strategic competitive advantage but does not have to be as grand in its scope. Since clients are selecting from your suite of (largely intangible) services, they are looking for some (marginally tangible) service they can relate to and appreciate as unique and valuable. In this sense, your whole practice does not have to be superior, just one or two compelling items.

Tip: Find (at least) one service, asset, capability, set of data or infrastructure that you have created, that few others could duplicate, and that you know is an easy sale to clients. This establishes your services as high value, making offering additional (non killer app) services easier and giving you a position of relative strength to negotiate their value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  presentations  product development  prospect 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)
 

#685: Consultants Need to Understand Type I and Type II Errors

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 28, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011
I always hear about Type I and Type II errors in business and how important it is that consultants understand these concepts. Why should I care about this?

People are referring to a statistical concept where a Type I error is a false positive and Type II error is a false negative. For the statistician, a Type I error is rejecting the null hypothesis when it should have been accepted. For a businessperson or consultant, a Type I error is seeing something that is not really there. Type II errors are missing something that is really there (and potentially company making or breaking).

A Type II error (false negative) can be serious when looking at competitive markets or human resource issues such as culture or employee opinions. Inadequate surveys or incomplete analysis may lead a consultant to conclude that there are not serious competitors or impending revolts among employees when, in fact, there are. Depending on the situation, a Type II error may result in serious losses for a company or put it out of business.

False positives are of most interest to consultants engaging in diagnostic or investigative activities, in two ways. As a consultant whose job it is to find problems to solve or opportunities to capture, we are looking for something on which to act. Maybe a process is "broken" or a market is "large and available" to your client. In either case, you may identify something that is not really significant enough to expend resources on. Alternatively, as a result of your activities, you conclude that your impact is significant when it really is not. In both cases, you have overstated the significance, or even existence, of your role to the client. Understanding Type I and Type II errors gives you good perspective on your role and significance to a client.

Tip: Think in terms of medical testing when you consider how you are going to control for Type I and Type II errors. The worst outcome when looking for a serious disease is to conclude it is not present when it is (Type II). To accommodate that, we use screening procedures that are relatively fast, cheap and for which we can tolerate a Type I (false positive) error. As a consultant, you may want to develop protocols that let you quickly tease out potential problem areas and for which you recognize there may be Type I errors. Those items that show up may be real or, more likely, false positives. Then you can proceed with more focused and rigorous protocols to look more closely at an issue, recognizing that what you want to avoid is a Type II error (false negative). You don't have to be a statistician to understand the concept and how your ability to mitigate risk on behalf of your client is a significant value added.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  analysis  assessment  assumptions  consulting terminology  consulting tools  diagnosis  information management  recommendations  risk analysis  statistics 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

#668: Offset the Economy's Decline at Confab 2011

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
This economy worries me. Usually an economic decline provides opportunity for consultants. This time, however, clients are pulling back on most fronts. How can I best use this time to strengthen my skills and business pipeline?

Consultants can always use more time, skills and clients. Our income grows as we use time well, specifically by more efficient marketing, service delivery and practice management. Business moves fast, so consultants who don't constantly learn new skills quickly fall behind in their ability to provide high value to clients. Finally, although we nurture long term relationships, we are always interested in finding new clients who could benefit from our expertise.

Anyone can sit at home and read a business magazine or book but the most effective way to strengthen our practices is to engage with other experienced consultants. We learn more from hearing about emerging markets, new technologies and new client service approaches. Conferences provide a perfect crucible for us to get out of our safe zones, ward off consulting obsolescence, build a national network, and fill our business pipeline. We can't do that from a book or talking to our long term colleagues.

The best conference by consultants and for consultants is Confab 2011, an intense 2 1/2-day conference (October 22-24, 2011) that builds your value and access to clients. Now in its 34th year, Confab is being held at the newly renovated Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, NV. This conference is well known for its unique sense of sharing, where your new colleagues make introductions, sessions bring new marketable skills and your practice expands.

Tip: We can stay home and hope the economy turns around in our favor or take charge and invest in a known business builder. For less than a single day's consulting fees, Confab is a profitable investment to launch, expand or refine your business. Hear what successful consultants who attend year after year say about its value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  marketing  networks  practice management  professional development  referrals  teaming  trends  your consulting practice 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 
Page 1 of 5
1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5
Community Search
Sign In
Sign In securely
IMC USA Calendar

1/19/2018
IMC GA: Exit and Succession Planning for Our Clients

1/25/2018
Consulting Core Competencies - MMC 2a

Message from the Chair