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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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#526: Make Sure Your "New" Skills are Relevant to Client Needs

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 21, 2011
I worry that my skills are not keeping up with the pace of business and management. My consulting business is good, but when I see the list of emerging management techniques, there are a lot that I don't know anything about. How do I get back up to speed?

We can be lulled into a false sense of security by a steady stream of clients asking for our services. However, client appreciation of what we provide is not the true test of value. It is whether we are providing what our clients need.

When was the last time you took a real inventory of your skills and services? I know, I know, you are too busy chopping down the next tree to stop and sharpen the axe. But how do you really know whether or not your services are in line with where business and management are going?

One way is to take advantage of research and surveys of what executives think are the most useful (or at least the most popular) management tools. You might look lists such as those published by Bain Consulting, who conducts an annual survey of which techniques are growing or declining in importance. Are your services at the "in" or the "out" end of the list?

Tip: You will find Bain's 2009 survey of Global Management Tools and Trends quite insightful. Are your emerging skills the same as those most in demand by your clients?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  trends  your consulting practice 

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#521: Leverage Your Strengths

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 14, 2011
Are you using your greatest strengths, attributes, and qualities in your work?

If you wanted to become a professional athlete, early on in your quest you would pick the sport to focus your efforts on based on your strengths and attributes. Your speed, agility, physical strength, coordination, size, etc. would all play into your decision and you (or the coach) would pick which position you would be best- suited to play. If you wanted to be successful, you would play strategically to leverage those strengths and attributes. You are (or desire to be) a professional management consultant. Are you playing to strategically leverage your strengths? Are making the most of your experiences, skills, passions, and abilities?

Tip: Take stock of your strengths and best attributes/qualities. List each of them and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to leverage them in your practice (and life, in general).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  consulting skills  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#504: Listen to the Team

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011
In working with the key members of my client's project team, I have trouble gauging how well they really feel the project is progressing. When asked in meetings, everyone nods in agreement that everything is fine, but I'm not sure if that is the case. Do you have any helpful ideas to help determine their real thoughts?

Consider a two part process. First, write down a set of criteria you feel are appropriate for evaluating whether the project is "on track." These might include financial factors, timeliness, process efficiency, error or rework rates, satisfaction measures of process owners or customers, or measures of performance improvement.

Second, talk informally and individually with each member of the team. Ask how they think it is going and what, specifically, they think is working well or not. Ask them to rate the progress and their satisfaction against the common criteria you laid out (take note of any exception they take to your criteria and adjust as appropriate). Also, ask them what they would change to improve the process, specifically what, in their responsibilities, they would be willing to change. You may be surprised at how much you learn from the process and how much goodwill you can create with each team member by soliciting their advice.

Tip: By taking this action, you are setting up expectations for action. Make sure you respond quickly and publicly to your findings. At a minimum, acknowledge the strengths and opportunities for improvement raised in your discussions.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client staff  communication  consulting skills  engagement management  goodwill 

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#384: Consultants Must Know the Source of Management Concepts and Practices

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 2, 2010
Updated: Thursday, September 2, 2010
How important is it to know the history of management theory as long as I know how to improve my client’s situation?

While there is a case to be made that many "new" management theories developed by researchers, practitioners and consultants are variations of existing concepts, it is still important to know their pedigree. I am not suggesting that you need to know them in enough detail to write a research paper complete with footnotes. I am suggesting you should know where they came from, why they were initially developed and whether the conditions from which theory were developed still apply to your client’s circumstances. The alternative is to keep applying what might have been, at some time in the past, a "best practice" but has ceased to be so.

Every management consultant should all understanding why some concepts, such as those developed by Whyte, Cyert and March, Simon, or Kuhn were and still are relevant. We also should be aware of why some others were tenuous at the time of their introduction, despite their popularity in the media, and are largely inapplicable now. Part of this should be aimed at understanding the circumstances under which a theory or associated consulting practice was "cast out" of the profession. For example, TQM had its day, but was its fall from grace due to a poor theory, inappropriate implementation, or being displaced by incremental theories that are rally a variation on the same theme from which TQM was derived in the first place.

Tip: Find some of the older management texts (look on Amazon under used books) that can summarize early 20th century management concepts, based on the understanding of the day. William Whyte's The Organization Man and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions are still amazing reads. If you want the abbreviated version, try a primer on management theories.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  customer understanding  learning  professional development  professionalism 

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#364: Consultants Can Have Too Much Knowledge and Not Enough Skills

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 5, 2010
Updated: Thursday, August 5, 2010
We've noticed over the past few years that a few of the consulting associates we've hired from high-end business schools present an interesting paradox. They have a stellar resume and academic credentials but just don't seem to have the experience foundation to be agile and creative. Is this an issue for business schools, consulting or just today's education system?

The knowing-doing gap is widely apparent in individuals whose preparation for the job market is primarily academic. Real aptitude comes from both pattern recognition and a rich experience base (i.e., "I've seen this type of situation before and I have alternative approaches to a solution"). Consulting competence comes from breadth of experience in business situations that you have actually tackled rather than just reading case studies. Having gone to a graduate school that relied on cases, it was immediately apparent who had "street smarts" and who was doing thought experiments. The intellectual agility and skill base required to be an effective consultant to management comes from serious practice with real situations.

This is why many consulting firms move beyond the traditional interview and require demonstration of practical abilities. They will give you an (often incomplete) example of a client situation to see how you reason and what experiences you summon in its solution (e.g., people who grew up on a farm have an advantage). This practice of requiring candidates to demonstrate skills has been working its way into other occupations who want to see what you can actually do, not just what you know.

Tip: This is relevant for management consultants because this effect exists in organizations as well as people. An excellent discussion of this is in The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  knowledge assets  learning  performance improvement  professional development  teaching/training 

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