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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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#586: How Would a Consultant Advise the Consultant?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 13, 2011
Updated: Monday, June 13, 2011
When working with other consultants for the same client, different perspectives and histories (and strong wills) can sometimes bring the discussion or problem resolution to a screeching halt. We all want to do right by the client, but how can these differences be resolved when each of us is "right" in some sense?

Clients often hire consultants for our independence and objectivity. However, independent means independent from the client, not necessarily from other consultants. Our job is still to provide our best analysis and recommendations for the client's welfare. That our recommendations may differ from those of other consultants working for the same client does mean we have an additional burden to resolve these differences before they get to the client. The worst thing we can do is to present our differences to a client and ask the client to sort them out.

One solution is, having listened to all perspectives from the various consulting teams, to ask us what would a new consultant recommend to all of the current consultants? We all know our individual consulting positions, but if we asked an independent "third-party" consultant to address our differences, how would he or she make that decision? Would it be through consensus building, forced triage, or some other method? Consider what process that person would use to cut through the self-interested positions (yes, even consultants have their own biases).

Tip: Make it a point to study group decision making processes, even if it is not your principal consulting practice. Helping a client come to agreement on an issue is no less of a value added than it is to facilitate a group of consultants to reach agreement on a client’s behalf.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  consulting colleagues  decision making  recommendations 

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#585: Consultants Can Help Validate Client Vision, Mission and Values

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 10, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 10, 2011
After getting to know my new client, I see a significant disconnect between their stated vision, mission and values and their actual implementation of the same. Although not in my purview for this engagement, is this something I should point out? Without integrity for these foundations of the company, I doubt my recommendations can make a significant difference.

Vision, mission and values are certainly important for a company to define and on which to build their strategy and operations. If they are not well articulated or, even worse, ignored, then you have an obligation to open up this discussion with your client. It is surprising how many organizations either do not fully develop these parts of their operating basis or let them get out of date. The first thing to be sure of is how your client defines these and sees their value as a foundation of your specific work.

A "vision" is the definition of the state of nature for the organization some time in the future. It can define either the external view of the world as a result of the organization's activities or the internal state of the organization. An explicit vision provides a clear picture everyone has of progress being made. Its ultimate purpose is to create a sense of shared purpose, motivation, and drive to achieve between the organization and its employees. Its resonant impact should be reflected in the way the board governs, the way the executive manages, and the way people work.

A "mission" describes why the organization exists. It describes its fundamental purpose and core business for the benefit of its stakeholders and society as whole. Focused on the present, it emphasizes what the company currently is and not what it is striving to become. Missions are usually stable, may be similar to that of other organizations, and are frequently at odds with actual activities because succeeding generations of managers have lost the feeling of the original mission.

"Values" are the organization's key guiding principles, fundamental beliefs and expected behaviors. Values help to create a cohesive corporate culture and are critical to supporting the organization's mission and ensuring that its vision is ultimately achieved. They are the basis for decision-making as well as program design, and adherence to them requires continuous reinforcement.

As consultants, we have to be aware of and fully understand the expressed vision, mission and values of our clients. Our recommendations must be consistent with those and we should make sure that implementation of our recommendations is consistent with them.

Tip: If there is a discrepancy between vision, mission and values as stated and as lived, it is appropriate for you to raise the issue with your client. Failure to do so compromises the effectiveness of your recommendations. Cast this discussion in terms of, "If the foundation (vision, mission and values) is weak, then the whole building (including your work products) is weak."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  customer understanding  recommendations 

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#584: Guard Against Negativity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, June 9, 2011
There are times when we will have to disagree with a client. However, if we are retained as providing independent and objective advice, at what point does disagreement get to be an adversarial relationship instead of a supporting one?

Disagreeing with a client on a particular issue is usually okay. Constantly being perceived as being "negative” is not. And if you are not careful, expressing your differences of opinion can quickly become viewed as a general character of negativity on your part. The last thing you want to happen is to be identified by your client as is a person who exudes negativity that begins to erode trust.

So, what can you do about this? Recognize that initial negative thoughts about ideas can often be recast in a positive and productive way or can be resolved by simply seeking further understanding. A client staff member says something that you initially don't agree with. Instead of reacting negatively, try stating "I am not sure if I understand the rationale behind that. Could you elaborate further? I want to be sure we are considering the same assumptions." Or try "I understand your reasoning behind that, but can I give you another variable to factor into your thinking?" Or you might even try, "Let me share my thoughts with you on this issue and let’s see where and why our thinking might differ." Always consider that you may not be seeing the same system they are, have all the same facts, or weight the importance of various factors the same as they do.

Tip: When you have a negative thought, avoid outwardly communicating this negativity to your client. Instead, seek a better understanding of their point of view and provide recognition of its validity. The value to a client of your independence and objectivity rests on their retaining their trust of you. Don't let a perception of a negative personality (whether justified or not) ruin that trust.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  goodwill  professionalism 

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#583: Take Your Notes to the Cloud

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I am increasingly capturing information in the form of notes, images, URLs, web clips and voice files. The problem is that these are all resident on one device or another and, instead of making life simpler, I find myself trying to recall which divide a particular piece of information is on. Is there a solution for this?

There happen to be several. Each new technology provides a new place to capture or record information, but using another platform may be easier for one type of information or another (e.g., images captured by your camera phone) but it also increases the complexity of your retrieval process. Fortunately, there are applications that take advantage of the cloud to store information on a common basis regardless of how you captured it - and make it available from anywhere.

There are several like this but I use Evernote as one of several ways to collect ideas, images and notes on the go. I find it useful to get camera phone images of whiteboards at a meeting into folders and keeping my to do list current across platforms.

Tip: Most problems solved by technology can also generate new problems that need to be solved by a combination of good operational practices, but sometimes require additional technologies. It is worthwhile to step back every so often and make sure these layers of technologies are still serving your basic needs relative to their overall complexity.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  knowledge assets  practice management  technology  your consulting practice 

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#582: Consider the Source

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Over my long career, I've come to realize that some sources of information are better than others. Information from some people I can count on and from others I am a skeptic. Any thoughts on how to avoid bad sources?

The ability to know who to trust and who not to is an acquired skill. But, beyond the source, for information to be valuable, it must be accurate, timely and relevant.

First of all, consider the source. If it is a person, have they always been reliable or just some times. If it is a data source, is its reputation with others and your own experience convince you it is trustworthy? Is there a reason to doubt the source? Is there a conflict where a source has a stake in your having incorrect, or at least misleading, information? Is there any reason to think there might be "spin" involved?

Next, consider the information itself. How current is it? Is it actual data or an estimate, projection or forecast? How accurate is it? How accurate does it have to be for your purposes? Is it the right information? Are you using data that are a proxy for the real data you can't locate? What are the implications for you and your client if the data are wrong?

Tip: Good researchers and journalists double check their sources and data quality. When you are not using data generated by your client's organization, you need to be especially careful to meet or exceed the data quality and analytical standards of your client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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