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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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#210: Saving Back Issues

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 1, 2010
Updated: Friday, January 1, 2010
I hate to throw out magazines but they take up space on my shelves. What can I do? I hate to lose my references when I need them.

There is an assumption embedded in your question that needs to be checked. This is that archived journals are worth saving. I would suggest that only a small fraction of journal articles are worth saving, and you will know them when you read them. A lot of what is published in journals is rehashing of old theories and cases. Especially when restricted to your particular industry and consulting discipline, there's just not that much in the way of new ideas

However, to keep a good hardcopy archive of your seminal articles, here are several approaches:
  1. Save the final issue of the year (usually the one with the "Reader Index") and box the rest for one year only.
  2. Clip the articles you want to save as you receive the issues and toss the rest immediately. As emotionally hard as this is, recognize that, unlike a decade ago, it is pretty easy to get most journal articles online almost immediately.
  3. Check and see whether those magazines archive online. If so, no need to save and maybe no need to purchase the hard copy subscription in the first place.
  4. Be sure you have a way to access these articles, once you have removed them from their "natural habitat” in journals with volume and page numbers. If you don’t have too many, a loose leaf notebook of electronic folder of scanned images may work well. Without this kind of access, these won’t be useful because you will never be able to locate them.
Tip: Online or electronic summaries are often available (e.g., at the end of each year, Harvard Business Review offers a CD with all its prior year's articles). There are often "special issues" which may be especially relevant, such as a "best articles of the year" or "top 10 articles on subject X". Finally, many hardcopy journals provide online access to past articles, including those before your subscription started and, since these articles are tagged by keywords, this makes it easier to find the kind of information online anyway. Aas uncomfortable as it may be, try hard to let go of paper.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  recordkeeping 

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#209: Putting Forth Creative Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 31, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2009
I often get an idea for a client that is really more of a "what about this idea?" vs. an "I recommend this." I don't want to look foolish if it's not a good idea. Can you give me some tips on how to present these?

Start by issuing a disclaimer, such as, "I am offering this in the 'brainstorming' mode ... not as a recommendation." You can follow with "The idea itself may not be directly applicable, but it may lead to another path ... and possibly a breakthrough." And if you are doing this in writing (preferable), then you can lay out the rationale for the idea along with the disclaimer.

Tip: An important consideration is when your client has developed total trust in you. In this case, a client can take even your musing as a recommendation. This is where it is essential you confirm your client recognizes the process you are going through is part of an exploration rather than a conclusion.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  customer understanding  innovation 

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#208: Ethical Disagreement With Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Updated: Thursday, December 31, 2009
My client claims that she won't do something I am recommending because she feels it is unethical. I don't think it is ... how do I convince her?

The foundation of this discussion with your clients is both the strength of your own ethical sensibilities and the trust your have built up with them. Start by saying "I would never recommend doing anything that I feel is unethical, nor recommend you ever do anything you feel is unethical ... so therefore, let's not do it as long as you feel it is unethical." And then listen for their response. And then probe to find out why she feels it is unethical. Feel free to use the IMC USA Code of Ethics as a basis of your discussion, making sure that the client understands your adherence to that Code.

If she convinces you, let her know you agree and hadn't seen it that way until she explained. And repeat "I would never ask anyone to do anything they feel is unethical, even if I disagreed." And then (and here's the real secret here) see how others faced with similar issues are dealing with the perceived ethical issue. If you feel you have a worthwhile counter argument that will withstand the rigor of her examination both by example and logic, then and only then, re-present your recommendation and say "I see where you are coming from ... let me provide both examples and the logic behind it."

Tip: Every nuanced difference of opinion about ethical issues is an opportunity to expand your ethical sensitivities. Even though you came easily to a conclusion about an ethical matter, the same one you always came to when faced with the same situation in the past, new circumstances or evolution in business culture may mean you need to evaluate the situation anew. You may be surprised about how your "obvious" conclusion does not always hold true.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  ethics  professional development  reputation 

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#207: People Leverage

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 29, 2009
AWhat are some ways to get some leverage on my time?

One way to get the leverage you are looking for is to use others to do some "leg work" for you. Depending on whether you are employed by a mid-sized to large form or an independent consultant, you may have to contend with two issues. The first is your attitude about your consulting practice. If you are with a mid-sized to large firm, you'll have less difficulty delegating and managing someone to help you. By virtue of your choice of being an independent consultant, however, you may have a harder time letting go of your time and tasks to someone else, even if intellectually you know it will leverage your time.

In either case, here's a model you can try. Hire a person that can learn some of what you do, someone who is bright but does not present him or herself her/himself as the expert but rather as the assistant to the expert. Start with diagnostic tasks, i.e., trying to figure out what the problem is at the client or prospect. Prepare a well thought out list of 37 questions that the research assistant (or whatever appropriate title you might choose) can ask. Send that person, instead of you, into a carefully defined upfront relationship to gather the data, meet the people, bring back files, reports, data, samples, etc. to save you the same one day or so on site and the travel back and forth. Then you do the analysis, the follow-up questions, the recommendations, the next meeting, etc. Once you have gotten this process worked out, documented the steps, and developed trust on a person to leverage your time on that task, you can move on to another task (or expand your group of trusted assistants).

Tip: Hiring an assistant or a service is only one approach to get leverage on your time. Of course, make sure both the assistant and client/prospect are carefully prepared. It is not worth trading your reputation just to leverage your time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#206: Protecting Confidentiality in a Referral

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 28, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, December 29, 2009
A colleague of mine referred one of her clients to me. Now that the engagement is over, my colleague is asking me for details about the engagement and her client. Given that my colleague continues to advise tis client, how much confidentiality about my engagement is warranted?

This is a good question but it has a simple answer. Your role as a consultant and your responsibility to your client is independence, objectivity and absolute confidentiality. Your client should expect that what transpires between consultant and client remains private. Even when you and your colleague are talking and the subject of your (mutual) client comes up, any information you have gleaned from your client is private unless it is already in the public domain.

See the IMC USA Code of Ethics, paragraph 5.0, "I will treat appropriately all confidential client information that is not public knowledge, take reasonable steps to prevent it from access by unauthorized people, and will not take advantage of proprietary or privileged information, either for use by myself, the client's firm, or another client, without the client's permission." Even though your colleague is a friend, with whom you share a client, your colleague is an "unauthorized person."

Tip: Don't even suggest to your client that you share information, or even ask whether you can share information, This will raise doubts with your client about your judgment. If your client brings up sharing information with your colleague, and says it is OK, or even desirable, to share information about your engagement, then you should be extremely conservative about what you share.l

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  consulting colleagues  ethics  reputation 

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