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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 

#695: A Good Question Beats a Good Answer

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 11, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011
Given that clients look for creative - and fast - answers these days, how much tolerance do they have for diagnostic, exploratory tasks that traditionally kick off most engagements?

Much of our value as consultants is to stimulate ideas and solutions clients are unlikely to reach on their own. How you go about this varies by engagement. However, some ways of managing your engagement create solutions faster than others. Specifically, clients are less tolerant of consultants starting off with reading client documents, gathering data and interviewing staff. They want to engage quickly and use the consultant's insight to ask the right questions, not have the client presume to deliver the answers independently. The best way to do this is to ask penetrating, and provocative, questions:
  • Why would people leave your competitor for your company?
  • What would you have to provide a recently departed customer to get them back?
  • How can we preserve our culture while we grow so rapidly?
  • Who would you pick from among current staff to repalce you?
  • How would you create a new product service if it had to be on the market in six months?
  • How can we build our core values into our brand as seen by our customers?
  • What recent strategic mistake can we reverse?
Note that these questions aren't answered with a yes or no. Instead, they start honest, insightful, and perhaps difficult conversations. Engaging a client in the solution makes you far more valuable than just delivering your own solution.

Tip: Your role does not end with the initial question. The questions above are a fine start but do not provide the unique value you are capable of providing. The series of follow up questions that dig deeper may be the foundation for a new direction for a company. Mutual exploration using your insights and your client's mission and motivation creates unbeatable value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding  facilitation  guidance  learning  your consulting practice 

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#680: Capture the Essence of Your Consulting Session

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011
I do a lot of facilitation and think I have worked out a good process to summarize the activities and outcomes of the sessions. I am always looking for an edge to improve the long term effectiveness of my facilitation. Any ideas?

We are all familiar with how quickly the memory and effect of these sessions can dissipate. People are brought together, who often may not know each other or know them well, and are expected to sustain a connection with each other and the outcomes of their work. By its very nature, this is a hard expectation to meet.

Our typical work product is a briefing to the client and some kind of written report. You probably know best what kinds of improvement within the facilitation process itself will work best for your clients, but here is an idea to strengthen the connection of participants to each other and to the outcomes. Take pictures of the event, including the setting (especially if it is an offsite event), the work room, facilitation teams, and even non work moments (meals, social time). Use a high resolution camera, not your camera phone. Make sure every participant is represented and that you can identify each of them. These can form the basis of a visual record of the event that significantly exceeds the impact or longevity

Tip: Create a picture book of the event, maybe even with commentary or quotes from the participants. There are many online services Blurb, Picaboo, Shutterfly and others) to which you can submit your photos and they will print up a book that you can provide to your clients (or all participants, if appropriate). With the price of print on demand decreasing in the past few years, this is becoming easier and cheaper. For less than $40, you can deliver an incredible memento for your clients (including a photo of you that will help them remember you even more). This will be an effective reminder of their work and something they likely haven't received from any other facilitator.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  creativity  facilitation  goodwill  recordkeeping 

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#617: If the Conclusion Is Obvious, Think Again

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I consult to boards of mid-sized companies. Several of my clients have most board decisions either on the consent agenda or that result in a unanimous vote up or down. Is this normal for governance of this size organization and, if not, how should I, as a consultant, raise this with my client?

This raises a lot of behavioral, decision-making, and group dynamics issues, beyond the organization and governance point I infer you are making. A key function of governance is to set direction and limits and of management is to make decisions. Well -structured governance and management provide for diverse points of view. Therefore, a well constituted board and good management team will necessarily have vigorous discussion - and likely disagreement. If there is not, opinion is either missing or is being suppressed for some reason. Think about some legislatures when votes are taken on strict party lines rather than representing constituent interests.

Just like your value as a consultant depends on your independence and objectivity, too much conformance and not enough independent thinking can compromise the potential value of governance and management functions with our clients. Reaching a conclusion on what is presumably an important strategic, operational or cultural issues should be a warning sign that more discussion is needed. It is part of your responsibility to raise this with your client and suggest ways to increase the diversity of discussion. this could be through different individuals, structure, process or expectations.

Tip: Lack of vigorous discussion between you and your client should also be a warning sign that you may be losing a part of the value of the interaction. Do you really want your client to agree with everything you say? If he or she does, how can you be sure they are critically evaluating your recommendations and are fully engaged? Likewise, if you are agreeing with everything your client says, it is likely you are not sufficiently critical or engaged in your project. Don't be disagreeable but do think critically, and expect others to do the same.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  consultant role  decision making  facilitation  roles and responsibilities 

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#587: Build in Coordination Time When Teaming

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I am often called on to team with other professionals to conduct a training program or facilitate some sessions. What amazes me is how well we come together, even though we may not have previously known each other or worked with the client before. Is this usual?

I wish I could say that a quickly assembled team of consultants or facilitators results in a smooth, productive experience. Certainly working with people with whom you have previously worked eases this process, but this is not always possible on short notice. We usually don't bring new people into a team unless necessary, but when we need to do so, there are a few caveats.

First, be clear what qualities you are looking for in a team member (e.g., technical skills, political acumen, relationships, industry or client experience, and data). Recognize that if you depart from such standards, you may be asking for trouble in delivering for your client. Second, look closely at the personality. You will need to quickly come together and agree on process approach and deployment, so flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity should be high on your list. Third, if you don't know them personally, get at least one reference, to increase the odds that the person will fit the team. Finally, check in with your client about the proposed team members. If you plan to put these new individual in a client-facing setting, the client should have some input into the selection.

Tip: Make sure to build in time to get the team in sync. Even seasoned professionals benefit by going over terminology, personalities, engagement rules established by the client, performance expectations of the convener of the team, preferences of team members (after all, each of them will have firmly set ways of conducting their business), the process steps and timing for the project at hand, and the protocols for making decisions during the engagement. Professionalism involves attention to details to make sure.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  consulting process  facilitation  teaming 

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#303: Making Sure Facilitations Are Successful

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I have facilitated some meetings that seemed doomed from the beginning. Despite a good process and facilitation skills, the group came together unprepared and seemingly with the "wrong stuff." Is ther anything I could do to be sure of success?

In facilitation, as in painting, preparation is critical to success. One really good, short listing of the biggest deal breakers for facilitated sessions is a McKinsey Quarterly article Taking the Bias out of Meetings. Both the facilitator and staff have responsibilities that include making sure the right people are part of the session (which may mean excluding some who think they should be there and inviting some who you might not think of at first), doing homework for the session, and making sure there is follow up accountability. The article gives good tips for each of these.

Tip: Build a facilitation preparation, execution and follow through process and add to it based on articles like these as well as observations from your own sessions and those of your colleagues.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  facilitation  meeting preparation  roles and responsibilities 

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