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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 

#115: Demographics Can Hinder Consulting Team Alignment

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 21, 2009
I serve as engagement manager and make final decisions on our project approach, but some of the younger members of my team consistently push back on selecting strategy and tactics. Is it reasonable to expect that consulting team members recognize that we do projects a certain way or should I be more accommodating?

There are two issues here. The first is that having one "company way" to structure or execute projects may constrain you from delivering the best service to your clients. Each project has its own circumstances and preselecting an approach because you prefer it is inappropriate. In consulting, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The second, and possibly more significant, issue is the role demographics and perspective may play in this repeating scenario. If your partners differ in age, ethnicity, or gender (to pick just a few elements of diversity), it may well be that you approach consulting from an entirely different perspective. Take strategy formulation as an example. Your perspective can be on (ref Mintzberg) strategy as a plan, pattern, position, perspective, or ploy, and your approach could fall into one of the ten schools of strategy formation. Demographics influences your preferences for one approach over another (this presumes that strategy is even an appropriate approach for an organization). At the risk of generalizing, men tend toward mechanistic planning or positioning schools and women tend toward entrepreneurial or cultural schools. Older consultants may see the more orderly power or configuration school as the "obvious" construct, while younger consultants may favor cognitive or learning schools. This dynamic may also play out in your alignment with your clients if you have significant demographic differences with them.

Tip: Before you get to discussing engagement approaches, explore the constructs underlying your views of organizations and intervention. How do you see the roles of the consultant (advisor or partner), the use of information (confidentiality or full disclosure), the planning construct (analytical or cultural), client involvement (consultant turnkey or participative process), and timing (long windup grounded in full diagnosis or quick wins through rapid results processes)? When you understand your partners' (and client's) frame of mind, you'll have a better appreciation for how to align your engagement approaches.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  customer understanding  planning  product development  teaming 

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#114: Creative and Interesting Business Gift Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 20, 2009
I am always looking for unique gifts for clients - nothing expensive or fancy, just something they will find useful and remember that it came from me? Do you have any interesting gift ideas?

I can go one better than a single gift idea. It is a website of a collection of interesting and productive products called CoolTools. Some items are for the home, kitchen or garden. However, most can be terrific business gifts. All have been reviewed by users, not the manufacturers, so you can often get a better perspective of what they will be like. Most of the items are unique designs of common items (special earplugs), but there are items rarely found anywhere else (laptop wireless booster), reasonably priced services (print on demand), and some items that you probably wouldn't give as a gift but might find a use for yourself (a universal remote to turn off blaring televisions in public places). Not all items are for everyone but there are a lot of interesting ideas. There are a lot of books with tips on business, trends, recreation and home living.

Tip: Although business gifts are often selected to reinforce an image or action of the giver (I sometimes give wooden puzzles to my strategy clients), a gift that reflects a unique aspect of the relationship is more memorable. If your client shared a funny fishing story with you, this might be an opportunity to give a Pocket Fisherman, a hokey (even tacky) gift that is sure to be remembered and appreciated, for at least the gesture. Of course, you have to have the level of familiarity and trust with your client to pull this off. I guarantee that in most cases, a gift like this will be appreciated and remembered more than a business card holder or desk pen set.

P.S.. The rest of the KK site has some fascinating technologies, trends and information, if you want to wander through it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  goodwill 

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#113: Consultants Spending Too Much Time in the Chateau

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It seems like most of an engagement is consumed meeting with the client and immediate staff. How much time should I spend with my client sponsor compared to time in the field?

The answer depends on the nature of the work. In World War I, a major criticism of generals was that they spent too much time in their chateau and not enough time in the field. They began to understand the theater and plan battles from the perspective of maps and models. Many historians posit that if they had spent more time in the field, they would have understood that weather, ground conditions, logistics and morale were much different than they had presumed. As a consequence, their plans might have been more realistic and effective.

If the scope of your consulting work is focused specifically on field operations and developing strategic, operational or cultural improvements, then much of your time is likely needed in the field. However, even if your work, say, is focused on improving administrative operations at corporate headquarters, you should still plan for and spend time in the field. You will develop a richer perspective, develop contacts and information sources, and perhaps see a part of the organization that your client sponsor may be missing.

Tip: In your project plan, explicitly include time to visit field operations (e.g., district offices, sales reps, plant operations). You don't need to visit every field operation, just enough to give you a solid sense of how they relate to the main office. Ask your client sponsor to make the introductions and accompany you on the trip(s). As appropriate, develop field contacts with which you can work to validate your work products and test out your recommendations. Don't be a chateau general.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  engagement management  planning 

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#112: Performance Bonding for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I just had a prospect ask me for a performance bond. I know this is requested for construction projects but no one has ever asked me for one for consulting. Is this common, or becoming more common, for consultants?

A performance bond is a partial guarantee issued by an independent bank or insurance company to assure some compensation to your client if you do not provide the contracted services. You would normally either set aside or deposit funds in an escrow account in amounts equivalent to a minor portion of the account value (10% is common but the amount reflects the perceived risk of loss). The bond term is usually for part of the term of the project, usually up to the point of a major milestone, after which the bond is released.

A performance bond is rare for consulting engagements because most management consulting engagements are based on personal referrals and trust between the client and consultants. Also, the amounts at risk and difficulty of replacement are higher for construction projects than consulting. Ultimately, the nature of consulting, with few advanced purchases of materials and physical or facility-related activities, means that there is just not that much at risk for a consulting client.

Tip: If a prospect requests a performance bond, ask about their underlying assumptions. Are they new to using management consultants and thinking in terms of a construction contract? What, exactly, are their assumed risks? Can you provide convincing referrals from other clients whom you have successfully served without a bond? If there is so little trust that a performance bond is required, consider the implications of this level of trust on other aspects of the engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client relations  engagement management  goodwill  prospect  reputation  sales 

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#111: Are Your Networks Social Enough?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 17, 2009
With the incredible array of online information sources about people and organizations, it doesn't seem that useful to spend a lot of time and money at in-person networking events. Are networking meetings dying?

You are describing two different activities, both of which are useful in developing your business. The first is information discovery, the collection of information about the environment, markets, players, and activities. This is a function that your online searches, clipping services, alerts and subscriptions can go a long way to fulfilling. Although the Internet seems like an endless source of this information, there are some specific skills needed to capture relevant, timely and accurate information (i.e., don't believe everything you read on the Internet and what you read may be accurate but out of date).

The second is information integration, the vetting, processing, and correlation of collected information. This is a function that you can best accomplish by spending time meeting with others and discussing the information you (all) have collected. Is the information you collected valid and current? Is it relevant to the issues to which you want to apply it? What other information is available that your sources might not have? Can the information you do have be used in other ways that might benefit others?

The most creative organizations actively switch between discovery and integration. A recent MIT study showed that about 40% of the variation in creativity can be attributed to this interaction between information processing modes. Furthermore, although the organizations and individuals with highly effective discovery processes are more productive than average, those with highly effective integration processes are significantly more productive. The conclusion is that online searches may be useful, but the person-to-person integration activities is the source of the highest productivity.

Tip: Robust information discovery processes are important but don't consider them a replacement for networking. What you may want to do, however, is to make sure your personal interactions are useful by focusing on the integration and information validation and exchange rather than the typical "exchanging business cards and shallow chit chat" focus of many networking encounters. Make your face to face time all about information integration.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  contact information  knowledge assets  knowledge management  market research  networks 

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