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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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#706: Build Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011
I know that my consulting practice should be changing as fast as the businesses of my clients. I just don't have time to create new lines of service. Any ideas how to put a little more innovation into my practice?

Good question, and one many consultants don't ask themselves. Whether you call it staying fresh, ahead of the curve, or innovative, consultants must constantly create new value. Let's talk about how.

Your inspiration for innovation should come first from your clients, and those organizations you wish to serve. They are either in need of new services or are actually asking you for additional services. Be attentive to their needs and discuss possible new services with them. Be aware that your innovation can come from processes, technologies or culture, and it can be about how they do business or about how they are served by you or others.

The second source of innovation is from your colleagues and from consulting conferences. Members of your network are providing services that, with a few adaptations, could add to your own. Find a collection of consultants with diverse practices who discuss trends in consulting and are also looking to innovate. Conferences like Confab are great places to meet with senior consultants with whom you can develop new areas of interest and potentially team.

Tip: However you decide to innovate, do it through a steady process, whether you develop new areas of practice or are tweaking current ones. Take one of your primary services and spend a month improving it. Find a more effective way to describe your service to prospective and current clients (this might give you some ideas about what areas of value might be missing). Work on delivery mechanisms, taking advantage of new analytical technologies, communication approaches, or adult learning research. Ask colleagues for examples of how they provide similar services. Finally, ask your clients how you could improve your service - they will probably appreciate being asked, since so few consultants do so. Work on innovation; don't just wait for it to happen.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  innovation  market research  process  product development  quality  technology 

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#620: Tame Your To-Do List

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 29, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 29, 2011
Professional services like consulting and law generate lists of tasks that never seem to decline. Especially if you are running a litigation team or consulting practice, it is like two steps forward and three steps back. How do you get through the day without being pulled in all directions?

There are two issues - your inbox and your outbox. Logic, and a lot of time management techniques, focus on the path between the boxes. Presumably, if we work faster, the inbox pile magically becomes the outbox pile. Improvements like delegation, streamlining and parallel processing (all familiar to operations consultants) dispense with your work faster and hopefully better.

However, consider a different approach - constraining the size of your inbox. This probably horrifies most consultants trying to market and sell, serve their clients and manage the practice. There's just too much to do! Well, consider what happens to many of the tasks that move from one To-Do list to the next To-Do list, some of which are finally abandoned. We know urgent and important are not the same thing, but how are we going to set priorities, execute with discipline and feel like we have had a productive day (week, month, year)?

Here is a clever idea - adopt the open and closed task list concept. Basically, you create a list of tasks for the day and once done and affirmed, the list is closed for the day. Any new tasks that come up (with consideration for different job types and how much of your job is responding to emergency requests) go on another day's list. This really forces you to trade off the urgency and importance of tasks and, when they can't go on today's list and there is no room compared to other tasks on tomorrow's list, many tasks may disappear without ever landing on any list.

Tip: If It Won't Fit On A Post-It, It Won't Fit In Your Day discusses this intriguing approach. I suggest you adopt this for a week or two to see how well it enforces the discipline needed to manage your inbox. Combined with the time management tips to dispense with tasks once they have landed in your inbox (on your post it note), you will be able to say "no" more often with minimal impact on your productivity or effectiveness.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  planning  practice management  project management  time management  your consulting practice 

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#591: How To Have More Time Than The Next Person

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 20, 2011
Updated: Monday, June 20, 2011
Although I could certainly better manage my time, it seems some people get a whole lot more done than I do. I can accept that I waste time but is there some secret I am missing?

There are two issues here: how much time is consumed and what gets done. Is the lack of time real or is it just your perception? We all have the same 24 hours a day but some of us "never have enough time" and others seem to have a lot of well measured time to get things done. In many respects, how we view our time as a resource is the key to spending it well. We see others getting things done that we wished we could do, but you may be doing things they wished they had enough time for.

One key is to identify the best use of your time. As a consultant, this should be familiar: draw a 2X2 matrix of "important" vs. "urgent" and fill the cells with your activities for the past week. This will seem too simplistic until you actually do it (not so easy to recall everything you spent time on, is it?). Then note how much time each of these took. How much time did you spend on urgent but not important tasks? What tasks could you have delegated?

A word about technology. Having a smart phone buzzing, checking multiple email accounts, does not make you more productive. Each of these events consumes time and your ability to attend to your tasks at hand. The distractions alone can consume an extra 15-30% of your time just to return to fully attending to your tasks. On your matrix above, how much time did tasks take during which you were constantly distracted? Could they have taken less time if you could have focused on them exclusively?

Tip: Again, it seems pretty simple but identify tasks for which you need to concentrate (especially urgent and important) and then block out and honor that time. Set your email to check the server every 30 or 60 minute instead of more frequently. Turn off the phone for blocks of time. Each month, set a goal to reduce your wasted time by ten minutes per day. Even with this modest goal, you will have saved a week of time. Then see how much you are getting done that feels worthwhile.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  practice management  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#490: Being Efficient With Your Conference Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 28, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I go to the four conferences annually in the related fields I serve. I attend the sessions, but mostly I am there to network, meet prospects, and find out what's new in each field. Each conference lasts the better part of a work week (when you include travel). That equates to a month's worth of commitment each year for me. Do you have any ideas how I can handle this more efficiently?

Here are some ideas:
  1. Spend less time at the conference. Pick the one day you want most, making it a day when there is not a major evening activity.
  2. On nights when there are no scheduled evening activities, why not try to pre-arrange a dinner meeting with a potential prospect or colleague. Use your time productively and connect in advance with other attendees to get together for breakfast or during breaks.
  3. Get a suite and set up a temporary office. Invite prospects (in advance of the conference) to attend individual meetings. In addition, you can easily get other work done during the rest of the time you are there. Result: You don't miss a beat. Simply attend the sessions and events you want and treat the rest of the time like a normal work week.
Tip: Don't get tricked into following the schedule or priorities laid out by conference organizers. This "suggested schedule" is designed to engage you in as many offerings as possible, not necessarily what you need. Sometimes you need to perform a quick "cost-benefit" analysis when deciding whether or not you even need to physically attend a particular conference. Look carefully at the actual agenda, length, and cost carefully when making your decision and try to "quantify" the benefit of actually being there. As an alternative, many conferences do offer lower cost methods to obtaining the critical conference content (such as DVD, CD's, etc.).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  learning  practice management  travel 

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#489: Keep an Eye On Managing Your Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Although independent consultants often have the benefit of a flexible work schedule, many fail to take advantage of this flexibility.

Here are some suggestions for leveraging the benefits of a flexible work schedule:
  1. If you do not work at home, avoid the wasted time sitting in traffic traveling to your office during morning and evening peak traffic times. Travel to the office before or after "rush hour."
  2. Rearrange your time and days so that you have set aside a block of quiet time for organizing, thinking, planning and writing. This could be early mornings, late evenings, or weekends. Quiet time (or time where you are disconnected from the world temporarily) can be the most productive time for many critical tasks.
  3. Be creative with your scheduling so that you can provide for more than enough time to take care of your health and well-being.
  4. You might even consider adopting a truly alternative work schedule (e.g., 4 day work week, starting a few hours earlier each day Monday through Thursday and then taking Fridays off!)
Tip: Don't be unnecessarily trapped by the pressure of a constraining work schedule if you don't have to. If you maximize your efficiency and get a little creative with your schedule, you might find yourself enjoying your work and life more.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  efficiency  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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