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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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#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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#673: Who Will Respect Consultants if We Don't Respect Ourselves?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The seemingly increasing publicity of ethical and/or criminal activities by consulting firms (e.g., false payments, kickbacks, insider trading, conflict of interest, plagiarism) is unsettling for a profession I have been proud to represent. Is this just more publicity or have the standards of the profession declined?

As with many newly discovered "trends,” it is always hard to tease out what part is actual change, an increase in reporting, or increased sensitivity to the news itself. Take the recently reported increase in domestic violence in a particular ethnic group that was commonly to be rare behavior. It turns out the increase, rising to the same levels as for other ethnic groups, was only due to newly available language-capable case workers. The "crisis" in the community was just a correction in reporting.

It is true that a lot of books have been published about unseemly behavior in management consulting firms. These authors pick on the larger firms because the stories are more spectacular. However, with greater scrutiny of corporate management, stiffer penalties and greater mobility among executives at consulting firms, it is logical to have greater visibility of such activities. As with any professional services firm, the pressures are high to sell more work to current clients, prove the value of that work, and to create opportunities to provide your services in new markets.

What has changed are the business models of consulting. What once was a relationship business in reality has become less of one today. Clients increasingly look for specialized expertise, lower cost and shorter term engagements and, because of greater migration of client executives, have less loyalty toward a particular consulting firm. This creates incredible pressure to step closer to the ethical line than ever before. As Ethics Officer of IMC USA, I hear more allegations of impropriety than in the past. In reality, however, it is a testament to the ethics and professionalism of many consultants that there are as few of these transgressions as there are.

I don't have empirical proof that consultant behavior is worse than it has been in the past, but the conversation about consultants has definitely coarsened over the past few years - both among clients and consultants. It is uncomfortable to hear executives say that they spent millions of dollars for a prestigious firm's services that left them with nothing of value. However, what is really troubling are conversations among consultants that disrespect colleagues, other firms or the profession. Take a series of consulting cartoons by James Sanchez called Big Consulting. While clever and painfully true, they make light of consulting firm compensation, disrespect for associates, questionable client relationships, and of highly unethical practices. Laughing at yourself is healthy, but crosses the line when it poses unethical behavior as funny.

Tip: Management consulting is a respectable profession but only deserves the respect we are willing to give ourselves. Let's use our intelligence and self-respect to promote excellence and ethics in our chosen field and treat our colleagues, our competitors, and particularly, our clients and communities, with the respect they deserve.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  ethics  goodwill  professionalism  publicity  reputation  trends  trust  values 

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#672: Be Careful About Naming Names

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
After I do interviews, my notes are full of names of individuals referred to by interviewees, such as "Mary really is the problem because . . .". Since they were specifically named, should I include those names in my report to the client, but not externally?

There are two answers: "of course not" and "probably not." First of all, it is likely that your interviews were confidential, and this means internally as well as externally. To associate the content of an interview with the name of the interviewee is a breach of trust, unless you explicitly get agreement from the interviewee what you would like to pass along and to whom. An understanding with your client sponsor as to the scope and disposition of interview data is always a good idea.

The other situation is where you are reporting the results of your interviews or analysis and you would like to report names of individuals to whom you would attribute certain characteristics. These are not quotes from an interviewee or a staff member with whom you have spoken; they are your own subjective impressions and recommendations. In this case, it is usually better to attribute your observations (and you should qualify them as such) to "the Vice President of Finance" and not the name. The reason for this is because you are best evaluating the structure or processes of an organization, not the individual. Only when the behavior or actions of the person, unrelated to their position, is an issue should you consider naming names. If possible, make your recommendations about the position ("shipping profitability is greater when the VP of production is held accountable for closeouts.").

Tip: Unless your task is about improving a specific person and not organization structure and processes, leave the names out. Your recommendations should apply to whoever fills the position. Your credibility as an impartial and ethical advisor hinges on how you handle what others may expect to be confidential conversations.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  confidentiality  ethics  reputation  trust 

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#662: How You Can Influence the Image of Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Why is it that individual executives seem to like consultants so much but there is a lot of contempt for consulting and consultants in general? Where is the disconnect and what can/should I do about it?

I suspect this is much like people's impressions of Congress: it is an awful institution, but my Senator or Representative is great! The disconnect comes from your familiarity with the consulting profession, relationships with specific consultants and the value consultants can and do provide. I spoke last week at the Annual Conference of Ethics and Compliance Officers and we had a lively debate about the impact on client organizations of consultant ethics (or recent lack thereof). Most of the discussion centered about high profile incidents of large consulting firms but I suspect there are also issues with smaller firms. Everyone agreed that the problem was with consultants other than those of their own organization!

Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. When you ask executives who are involved in the decision to retain a consultant, are involved in their selection and management, and are close to the benefits they provide, consultants get a good or excellent rating. When you are an employee, an individual in "another" company or division, or a vendor whose business has been or will be disrupted by a consultant's recommendations, the reviews are not so positive.

What does this have to do with you? Well, since you are going to have an impact that will be perceived differently by different people, it may be in your interest, as well as your client's, to manage these perceptions. You don't want your recommendations to die in implementation because you didn't properly help staff understand what, why and how these recommendations are necessary for the company. Maybe this is the client's responsibility, but your effectiveness depends on laying the cultural groundwork for your recommendations to grow.

Tip: Work with your client to be sure that your role and the need for your services are properly explained to employees and other stakeholders. Don't assume that this is being handled by a simple letter of introduction or one all-hands meeting. You will need to manage expectations about how others understand and react to your presence and attempts to improve their organization. Above all, let them know that you consider ethics important and that you are bound by third party ethics compliance practices (like IMC USA's) and not just your own company's.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  consultant role  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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#648: What Do Others Say About You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 7, 2011
When I hear some consultants talk about their colleagues in an unfavorable light, and the comments seem to be inconsistent with my experience with the people they are talking about, I have two reactions. One is that I wonder what they are saying about me when I am not around. The other is I wonder how much I can trust them to be honest with clients and colleagues if I were to team with them. Should I be worried?

You are right to be worried about comments like that. Disparaging one's colleagues in public is unprofessional and, in fact a violation of the IMC USA Code of Ethics. Paragraph 14 states: I will not advertise my services in a deceptive manner nor misrepresent or denigrate individual consulting practitioners, consulting firms, or the consulting profession. Of course, if you have solid evidence to think unfavorably about another consultant, then you can certainly make your own decisions about teaming based on that knowledge.

If a consultant has something to say about another consultant, they can say it to the person's face. You are not the only one who notices these things. Clients occasionally say that one of the most important factors in judging the professionalism of their consultants is how well they get along with other consultants. For these clients, your bad mouthing another consultant will just damage your own reputation with the client.

Tip: Make it a point to get to know other consultants personally, more than just by reputation. Until you do, and begin to appreciate their perspective, experience and skills, refrain from commenting judgmentally about their character and consulting acumen or expertise.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  consulting colleagues  ethics  reputation  trust 

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