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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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#571: Be Clear Whose Value Is In Your "Value Added"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 23, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 23, 2011
Everyone assumes that consultants will provide "value added" in everything we do, but there is not always agreement between client and consultant, or even within the client leadership team of what that "value added" should be? Is it the client's or the consultant's responsibility to sort this out?

In many cases, it is precisely the difficulty in defining the value add needed by the client that caused a manager to reach out for independent and objective consultation. Part of our job as consultants is to provide a framework with which to think about how clients can articulate and acquire that increased value. What can go wrong is if we forget whose value we are articulating.

Some of the unwitting faults of consultant-created value propositions include self-centeredness (focused on the solutions consultants like to bring to bear), same-old, same-old (using the same solutions that worked with other clients, including this client's competitors), and "there's no there, there" in which the value added is necessary but insufficient to significantly change the client's position. Work with the client to be sure that you are designing an intervention with real, sustainable and compelling value that resonates with the client and the client organization.

Tip: Read Why You Need Three Different Types of Value Proposition by Julie Schwartz in for an interesting look at how to articulate your value (this is for an IT environment, but is still a good way to stretch your thinking).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  goodwill  sustainability 

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#570: Use an Ethics Decision Tree

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 20, 2011
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2011
Management consultants are taking a lot of fire these days for ethics violations, a lot of which is predictably self-inflicted. Despite having a code of ethics and frequently discussing how we would treat various ethical situations, how are we supposed to make sure, or at least decrease the likelihood that, we won't go down the same dangerous paths we are seeing in the news that other consultants are going?

If consulting requires life-long learning, then consulting ethics requires something more. At a minimum, strengthening your ethics muscles benefits from regular exercise (discussing consulting and business related cases), from stretching (doing this with challenging, seemingly unsolvable ones) and from cross training (looking at ethics challenges from other industries and disciplines). This is a logical approach, but one more aspect of an ethics training regimen is frequently ignored.

This is the way you use those muscles you have worked so hard to strengthen. I recommend developing a personal checklist or decision tree when facing an ethical challenge. Rather than assuming you are "strong enough" to handle any ethics challenge, face it with the same methodical approach you would recommend a client face their own challenges. In this way, you can assure that you won't miss anything.

Various ethics organizations and companies have developed such protocols. Consider the one developed by the Austrian chemical company Borealis, in which they ask employees to apply five tests in sequence (a decision tree):
  • Courtroom test -- is your preferred action legal in all jurisdictions affected? Ask your legal counsel.
  • Values test -- is it consistent with firm values and code of conduct? - Find out from you ethics compliance officer or supervisor
  • Family test -- would you tell a friend, colleague or family member? If not, reconsider whether to proceed or not.
  • Headline test -- would you want to see this in the papers? Get feedback from others to confirm.
  • Virtue test -- forgetting all else, does it feel right? You need to be able to sleep - tonight as well as 10 years from now.
Tip: The Borealis Ethics Policy is an excellent example of a company clearly and vigorously attending to the ethical behavior of its employees and is highly recommended reading.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting tools  ethics 

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#569: Take the Opportunity to Chair at a Conference

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 19, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2011
I was asked to serve as a chair at a conference. Even though I know this will give me exposure and help me develop skills I might not get elsewhere, it is a commitment of time. Is this a worthwhile activity?

Absolutely. Conferences are one of several ways to prove to your colleagues and clients that you are a professional consultant. Like most industries or professional disciplines, consulting moves fast enough that you (and clients) can quickly tell who is keeping up with the latest developments and who isn't.

Thinking that conferences aren't useful because they "take time away" from delivering services or developing new business is like assuming the same thing about sleeping. Conferences are a place to pick up best practices, meet other consultants, test new ideas and develop business. They are an efficent way to do all four of these necessary activities.

Take the opportunity to participate in conference planning and operations. It provides incredible visibility and access to other professionals. Demonstratef competence helping to run a conference positions you as a trusted and capable consultant that others think of when it is time to pick business partners because they have seen you in action. This is not just for consultants "starting out" but is also valuable for senior consultants. Make sure, though, that you actively manage and maintain those relations after the conference.

Tip: IMC USA's annual conference Confab is one of the best conferences for visibility. For over 30 years, Confab has been the largest conference for consultants and by consultants in the US, and a continuing source of business for professional consultants who stay involved. There are still opportunities to be a part of the conference team.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  education  goodwill  learning  networks  professional development  reputation  speaking 

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#568: Use Technology to Manage Your Communications

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Information overload is a problem with everyone, but particularly with consultants who research and track lots of industries and specializations. However, most strategies dealing with overload tell me to cut out information. Instead, how can I better extract useful knowledge?

We have a conflict between wanting more information but in less time to se can absorb it. If the strategy of unsubscribing and filtering out do not appeal to you or detract from your needs, then you are talking about increasing its density instead of reading faster every email, blog and white paper. There are book summaries, converting text to speech and using digests to cull through more voluminous content, but consultants would benefit from actually mining the data they do receive for information on exactly how to manage their communications.

Never doubt the ability of entrepreneurs to address an obvious problem and sell the solution to consumers or for bigger companies to do the same for internal use and then give the solution to outsiders for whom it might fulfill a need. There are two such solutions to help better understand how you might keep your Outlook contents from overwhelming you.

The first is Xobni (see tip #255 for more details) which can help you see the who, when, what and, to some extent, the why of your email overload. Both free and paid versions are available to facilitate faster searching, better understand who is most clogging your email and when most of your communication is done. The second is The Business of Your Brain, goes beyond Xobni to examine your Outlook files (privately) to see where you are spending your time (e.g., how many hours per day, week or month you spend in meetings), what people you are most engaged with, how much time you spend in meetings, and vocabulary you most use in your emails. The point of this is to help you decide where your time is best spent and with whom.

Tip: These tools presume you record your life in Outlook but even if you do not use Outlook or do not record everything, these products are based on a logical premise that getting control of your day is possible only if you understand where it "disappears" or is being spent productively.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#567: Physicians and Management Consultants Share Many of The Same Values

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Consultants always try to do what is right for their clients and, at a minimum, don't mess anything up. Shouldn't the Hippocratic Oath apply to management consultants as it does to physicians?

The modern Hippocratic Oath states, in part: "I will not be ashamed to say 'I know not,' nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery." As applied to management consulting, this means that there will often be things you do not know and you should not be hesitant to admit it. You can always propose to follow up with research, analysis, or referral to another specialist. The last and possibly most unethical thing you should do is to pretend you know something you do not. This is outright lying. 

What will mitigate the impact that you are human and will not know everything is having a good network of specialists. You know where you are strongest in skills and experience, so you should have a good idea of those areas in which you lack knowledge or technique. Make a list of these and deliberately begin to identify where you can find expertise for each. Contact each one, introduce yourself, confirm their expertise, and tell them you would like to be able to call on them as needs arise. Your network (and theirs) has just gotten bigger and you are now more valuable to your clients.

Tip: The original Hippocratic Oath states: "I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art." As originally (4th Century BCE) interpreted, this means that a physician will not "cut for stone" (i.e., remove kidney or bladder stones) when this task is better suited to a specialist. A historical note: during this time, physicians were not considered surgeons, which was considered a less prestigious profession than medicine.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  goodwill  professionalism  values 

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