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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 

#725: Build the Network You Think You Don't Need

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 23, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011
I've never found networking events to be particularly productive in the consulting business. I'd rather be getting to know potential clients than other consultants or professional service providers. If the goal is to build our consulting firm, shouldn't we focus on clients?

Networking is taken as an article of faith among consultants - as well as other professional service providers and business people of all stripes. You may be asking the important questions in reverse order. The third question is how valuable is networking; the second question is what do you mean by networking; the first question is what is the objective of networking.

Robert Kiyosaki, author of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad, says "The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work." HIs point is that, regardless of the size or breadth of your consulting practice, the pace, complexity and uncertainty of the business environment means that you will increasingly need fresh relationships, resources, and information sources to thrive. A few colleagues or data sources are no longer sufficient to give you what you need. This is what networks are for.

The next question of what networking is should not focus on "networking events." Regardless of how well these are designed, they are largely semi-structured aggregations of people who, if you are lucky, can connect with each other. This may be what most people mean when they say networking but it is not the same as building a network. This requires defining the people, information, skills, resources and access necessary to keep you current with trends in your industry and discipline. A network is defined, explicit, and intentional. It is also continuously redefined. The final question, how valuable it is, can be answered in terms of how critical the network(s) are to your professional (and personal) growth. How damaging to your business is a loss of prospects, partners or revenues when the market changes, key staff leave or technologies or competitors devastate your market? Your networks are your safety valves. We can never have too many networks, and few consultants have enough.

Tip: Start by defining what you need to be agile in your business, to anticipate and respond to emerging trends. Like making a packing list for a trip, write down what you need to have and be over the next five years? What people or skills do you need to acquire theme? What different networks do you need to develop or strengthen - you may need 5-10 different networks? What is your plan to build, support and evaluate the effectiveness of those networks? How do you intend to not just connect others into your network, but to connect to other networks? The LinkedIn model of a "network of networks" is a good way to look at your own networking approach. Finally, since you don't know what you will need a few years from now, how will you build your networks so you have access to that which you think you don't need?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  assumptions  change  consulting colleagues  innovation  knowledge assets  networks 

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#678: Keep an Eye on the Future

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Regardless of consulting focus, technological advances influence both how our industries change and how we run our consulting practices. Since I am not a technology person, how can I stay on top of these advances with a modest amount of effort?

Evolving technology is more than just electronic gadgets. It involves materials, communication, manufacturing processes, transportation, energy, medicine and healthcare, analytics, etc. Advances in any one or combinations of these areas will dramatically affect strategy, operations and culture of your clients. Think about how social networking technologies have changed how professionals communicate in just a few years and how cell phones and GPS have spawned entire new industries.

In less than an hour a month, you can keep up with these developing technologies. Several periodicals summarize how technology will change our business and personal lives. Here are three examples - but you may look around and find your own:
  • Industry Week describes, for a business readership, current events and trends in areas as diverse as energy, technology policy, and innovating companies.
  • Popular Science describes, for a lay readership, near-term, consumer-oriented products and processes.
  • Technology Review describes, for a more technical readership, specific technologies and how they could transform industries, including a range of special reports for individual technology groups.
Tip: There are many more sources but these provide a quick overview with just enough technical details and links to more if you are interested. Set up links to these periodicals in your favorites folder and a tickler to check them regularly, at least monthly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  product development  professional development  technology  trends 

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#560: How to Know You're Beginning to Master Your Profession

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 6, 2011
Updated: Friday, May 6, 2011
If business and management are constantly changing and consultants are expected to keep up with or get ahead of these changes, how do we know when we have "mastered our craft"?

I am not sure we ever master our craft, whether the industry we consult to or the disciplines we use to provide client services. That doesn't mean we shouldn't learn as much as we can about business, management and consulting. However, there are two clues that indicate we might be getting close.

First is the frequency with which your professional colleagues seek you out for advice. Do your colleagues come to you (not just once, but second and third times) asking your opinion about how to evaluate a situation or recommend a course of action? Do they ask you for your judgment and benefit of your experience? Do they refer to you as "the person who knows about these things?" If so, then your knowledge and experience have reached a level of peer acceptance.

Second is when you can read the latest business book relating to your discipline or industry and, based on experience and a solid understanding of underlying theory, react confidently to assertions it makes with "Yes, no, no, no, that's interesting, no, yes, NO!, only in certain circumstances, etc." This does not mean your reactions are based on unfounded opinions but are made with a full understanding of how the systems and concepts you read about work.

Tip: A commitment to management consulting is also a commitment to lifelong learning. Although we never master the profession, we can seek the affirmation of our peers and the confidence to critically evaluate best practices as indicators we are improving.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  consulting skills  education  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  performance improvement  professional development  professionalism  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#458: Help Your Client Take the Hard Journey to Jiseki

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
My clients hired us for our advice, experience and diagnostic skills. Yet, when we present what we consider incontrovertible evidence of a pressing issue, we get all kinds of excuses about our work, or that it isn't something they want to deal with. How do we break through?

The resistance to come to terms with uncomfortable truths is an aspect of human nature we all deal with, but there is something as consultants we can do about it when it afflicts our clients. In fact, the thinking follows a well-prescribed path to coping:
  1. Stage One: "The data are wrong.” This is total denial, couched in the unwillingness to accept that data reflect reality.
  2. Stage Two: "The data are right, but it’s not a problem.” This accepts that data reflect reality but that the data are variants on the desired and predicted reality of consequence to us.
  3. Stage Three: "The data are right, it’s a problem, but it’s not my problem.” This is when the problem is neither your fault nor should you have any role in its resolution.
  4. Stage Four: "The data are right, it’s a problem, and it’s my problem.” This is acceptance of a role, even beyond the scope of your contribution to the problem, to take responsibility and come up with a solution.
This is about taking on the burden of creating something new that goes beyond just fixing a problem. This is the Japanese work "jiseki," meaning, I'll take care of this, I can and will fix this, I will make it all better.

Tip: As with Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief, understanding this progression from denial to acceptance can help you design a process to move your clients from one stage to another. And let's not forget, this applies to us as well as our clients.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  change  client relations  coaching  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  engagement management 

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#349: Thinking Beyond Your Normal Boundaries

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 15, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 15, 2010
After more than a decade in consulting, I have developed a solid set of stories, examples, and templates that I use in my engagements and I think they work really well. Should I update these standards or am I OK with what I have?

A consultant is well served by a ready set of stories, examples, and metaphors to assist in communicating techniques and approaches to make organizations more effective. However, there is always room to improve the way we think about organizations, management and consulting. One of the best ways to do this is to read constantly about innovative ways businesses operate and how to use this information to refresh your toolkit.

Think beyond your normal boundaries. For example, if you are involved in process improvement, find examples of clever ways companies are benchmarking. Hospitals trying to improve operating room effectiveness have benchmarked against racing pit crews to address tool placement, equipment hand offs, communication, and process speed and predictability. Maybe not what you would normally consider, but something that stimulates you to think more broadly.

Another example is where Southwest Airlines looks for employees. Instead of traditional places, Southwest looks for flight attendant candidates among school teachers, who are very service oriented and social. Police officers and fire fighters are known to make great baggage handlers because they are used to physical activity, work extremely well in teams and are goal oriented. Seeing through the eyes of Southwest can stimulate you to think more broadly about new ways to help your clients do the same.

Tip: Even if you have developed a good set of consulting resources over the years, give them a good scrubbing and update. After a while, the stories become tired (even the examples above are well known to many consultants) and really require a review to see if there are more robust concepts needed, more recent examples available, and new ways to tell the "story" for each of them.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  communication  innovation 

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