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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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#315: Association Memberships

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 28, 2010
Updated: Friday, May 28, 2010
I belong to several professional associations, ranging from technical to marketing to industry groups. How do I know which ones are really working for me?

We join professional associations to increase our skills and knowledge, increase our exposure to others in our profession and, ultimately, to increase our ability to practice our chosen discipline. IMC USA describes this as Get Smart, Get Known and Get Business. If your association is helping you with all three, then it is probably a good one for you.

Another issue is the nature of the professional support you get. One example is management consulting, which consists of two distinct parts: the "What" and the "How." You should belong to associations that can help you improve in both areas.

The "What" is your technical discipline and industry perspective, and associations like SHRM, IEEE, ASTD and other technical associations are "musts" to belong to. The "How" complements technical with consulting skills and behaviors, ethics, interpersonal and organizational capabilities, and the opportunity to meet and learn from people in many different technical disciplines.

As cross-disciplinary skills and experience become more important, professionals need places to meet and work with others in different fields. Someone with technical skills without consulting skills (and vice versa) will find it increasingly hard to keep up in the management consulting profession.

Tip: If you are a practicing management consultant and already belong to a technical association, IMC USA invites you to explore membership in the premier professional association and sole certifying body for management consultants in the US. With the coming ISO registration for management consultants (which will be based on the CMC designation awarded by IMCs around the world), greater commitment to yourprofession through associations and professional certification in both technical as well as consulting disciplines become of equal importance.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  career  consulting colleagues  education  learning  professional association  professional development  professionalism  trends  your consulting practice 

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#295: Educational Foundations for Effective Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 30, 2010
Updated: Friday, April 30, 2010
This issue comes up every time the consulting market changes, but is it better to have a technical education or a liberal arts education as the foundation for management consulting?

This somewhat depends on what you mean by the terms "better" and "foundation." However, while both have value in many settings, a liberal arts foundation beats a technical foundation in most cases. Let me explain.

Every job involves three characteristics: knowledge, technique and judgment. Broad technical knowledge is important to understand the character of a problem and generate a range of solutions. Analytical or implementation techniques are essential to find and apply approaches to improve a client's situation. These are necessary but not sufficient to provide a complete solution. Judgment, however, is not a technical skill and something that may be aided, but not replaced, by analytical and decision tools. Without judgment, solutions to problems temd to be based on experience and mechanical in scope. Judgment is the glue that lets us apply knowledge and technique, and judgment comes from broad exposure to the liberal arts.

The liberal arts education develops an ordered intellect and the ability to extend learning beyond just experience, teaches you how to listen and communicate in multiple ways, empowers you to recognize and connect patterns and solve problems, and gives you broad insights into how other people reason and feel. Every one of these capabilities are used in building a consulting practice and serving clients. Judgment requires exposure to a broad range of disciplines, subjects and situations. Having exposure to and practice in critical studies of history, philosophy, mathematics, physics, music, languages, logic, grammar and literature all contribute to your ability to recognize deeper patterns in a client situation and generate more creative solutions. Problem solving becomes synthetic in addition to the analytical approach made possible by a technical education.

Tip: Listen carefully to other consultants and you will begin to see differences between those with primarily a liberal arts and technical backgrounds. It becomes apparent in the precision of language, the breadth of solution space, and the ability to simplify and solve problems quickly. Liberal arts without technical skills, or vice versa, will generate limited solutions. However, even superior technical skills can only take a consultant so far. Without the ability to connect sciences and humanities from a liberal arts education, the consultant's ability to create innovative solutions and provide agile advice is limited. This is a good reason why continuous learning in a range of disciplines is critical to sustained consulting effectiveness. Read William Cronon's article on The Goals of a Liberal Education.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  teaching/training 

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#203: Sending Out Your Own Tips

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 23, 2009
You wrote about providing too much information to clients. What about providing them a regular tip like you do?

Obviously we think tips are useful to consultants. We have subscribers in more than 100 countries and sometimes get substantial inquiries as well as questions that start two-way conversations. The first challenge is to identify who your audience is, which is a function of what you want the tip to do for you. Support current clients? Publicize your expertise? Saturate a market or two with your name? Build up a body of content for a book? Satisfy your need to blog about your ideas? Be clear about what you want before you launch into writing. Daily Tips for Consultants is meant to support excellence and ethics in management consulting (our mission) and is targeted at all levels of experience, discipline and industry. This is why tips vary in their sophistication, directness and applicability for your tastes.

Write some tips to run by a few trusted colleagues for format, content, style and impact (tell them what you want the tips to do for you).Pick a frequency that works for you and your target. Daily tips can be a lot to both read and write, so try weekly or monthly. Consider labeling it with your name, e.g., Rita's Weekly Marketing Tips, or Jim's Daily Board Governance Tips.

Tip: Make sure you have included a mechanism for people to respond to you - at least an email if not a phone number (if you want a response). And remember to post links to your tips everywhere – your website, on a second business card, on your collateral and in your email signature line. Make it easy for people to subscribe and to unsubscribe.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  brand  education  intellectual property  knowledge assets  sales  writing  your consulting practice 

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#91: Learning Management Consulting From a Book

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 13, 2009
I see more universities offering courses and even certificates in management consulting. How can something so experience-based be taught from a book?

All jobs are characterized by three elements: knowledge, heuristics (judgment), and technique. There is useful knowledge to be learned from books about consulting, such as management techniques, consulting processes, history of business and approaches to consulting, and various aspects of the business of consulting. You can also study the mechanics of decision making, strategy formation, and analysis. Finally, any number of books, videos or classroom instruction can provide you with checklists, templates, and processes (including analytical and presentation software) through which you can build a consulting toolkit.

That said, there are some things that can be learned from books and some things that can only be learned through experience. In most cases, medical doctors complete a residency of several years following medical school, sometimes adding a fellowship, before they are considered fully "ready" to practice medicine. Similarly, certification in consulting requires three years of progressively responsible consulting experience, including designing and managing engagements.

Many clients are justifiable upset by consultants who have sold a process but lack the depth of knowledge or judgment to adapt their processes (or abandon them in favor of more appropriate ones) as needed by the client. Just because management consulting is called a knowledge profession, don't be fooled into thinking that book knowledge alone is sufficient foundation for effective consulting.

Tip: Conversely, no consultant can acquire all the needed knowledge, heuristics and technique through experience alone. Personal experience may give a false sense of confidence in a consultant's abilities and effectiveness. Part of our continuing education commitment as professionals is to extend our learning beyond personal and even firm experience. There are quite a few great consulting books. One good complement for an experienced management consultant is The Advice Business: Essential Tools and Models for Management Consulting. I have been borrowing a copy for a few years and finally bought my own so I could mark it up. It's a great reference for items about consulting and management that you never learned, as well as those you forgot.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  learning  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#982: Knowledge of Statistics is Critical for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 9, 2009
How important is knowing statistics for a consultant, especially if their specialty is not in process management or technical consulting?

Statistics is often misunderstood as the province of "technical" consultants. On the contrary, every consultant should have a solid working knowledge of basic descriptive and inferential statistics. Regardless of your specialty or discipline, your ability to interpret client data, make inferences about information you collect and evaluate, and to clearly communicate you recommendations all benefits from statistics.

Most consulting firm interview cases involve an analytical problem that may not require statistics but do require a feeling for numbers. We should always have a sense of magnitude, direction and units of any number that describe our client's situation or operations. Even if you are in HR, training, or other "people" discipline, numbers are still an important way to understand performance appraisal trends, interpret survey results, or predict the probability your recommendations will have the desired effects.

Tip: If you haven't been actively using statistics or are uncomfortable with numbers, now is the time to spruce up your numeracy skills. Two classic books on the importance of everyone to have solid math and statistical skills are How to Lie With Statistics and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper. For a slightly more directed look at statistics, look online for "basic business statistics"

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  education  professional development  statistics 

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