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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 

#717: What Are the Defining Moments of Your Consulting Career?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2011
One of our firm's best engagements just concluded - I wish I could repeat the experience with every client. We had a committed sponsor, the staff worked well with us and we all grew as professionals because of the challenges (it was a merger). I am wondering what makes for valuable, or at least memorable, engagement for other consultants.

Two thoughts come to mind. the first is that many (not all) consultants have a clear idea about their ideal engagement. The criteria they use may vary from how much they learned, how successful the client became, or how much money they collected in fees. Based on those criteria, they are probably pursuing clients with whom they could get those outcomes. The more successful those pursuits, the more memorable their consulting careers.

The second is that sometimes there are the unexpected events, people, and circumstances that, although unplanned and unintended, are the most memorable. What might have been a long term, steady client suddenly changes strategy and you are caught up in an exciting, challenging project. Or you meet someone, whether a client sponsor, a staff member or a consulting colleague, with whom you interact and it changes your career or life. Neither would you have chosen this event or person nor would you have thought that it would have been as significant as it turned out to be.

For me, these defining moments in consulting (positive examples) include several colleagues who exhibited exceptional ethics and professionalism, time spent at national labs with some incredibly talented engineers, and facilitations on response to nuclear terrorism and standing up a new corporate board. Conversely, there were some moments that were not so pleasant. Yet, I don't want to forget them because they affected me in that they either helped me know what (or who) to avoid or left me with humility or awe at what I still needed to learn as a consultant. And, yes, the times I messed up and vowed to never make that mistake again!

Tip: Look back over your consulting career (add in management or other elements of your career) and pick out a few each of the people, places, events, and projects that changed your consulting skills, attitude or perspective. What are they? Email me at dailytips@imcusa.org or post your throughts on the IMC USA website in the comments section to this blog.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  education  guidance  learning  professional development  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#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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#694: Can You Diagnose an Organizational Learning Disability?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Does your consulting practice or your client's organization have learning disabilities?

Just as individuals have disabilities when it comes to perceiving, understanding and applying knowledge, so too do organizations. If we are unable to establish a construct within which to actively seek or passively absorb information around us, it is difficult to acquire new perceptions or develop new habits of behavior. The same applies to applying and benefiting from this new knowledge.

Organizations have the same challenges. If your client's organization, or even your own consulting practice, does not create the conditions for active learning and growth, it will fall behind competitors in being able to deliver constantly improving service and to thrive. There are many constructs for describing how organizations learn but they must be set up to learn, actively learn and structurally apply that knowledge to sustain performance.

Tip: Use a common three-step process to improve your organizational learning. First, investigate the circumstances of your strategy and operations. How well do you understand who you are, where you intend to go, what your capabilities are? Second, evaluate what is working and what is not. Can you identify what activities led to success and failures and why? Third, institutionalize what you have learned. This is the place where many consultants fail - they understand what happened and why but do not do anything about it. Especially for your clients, but also for your own business, take specific actions to make sure your failures are not repeated and that the conditions the led to your successes become part of your practice DNA.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  guidance  your consulting practice 

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#609: Help Your Clients Connect With Influencers

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 14, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011
Clients usually ask consultants to spend much of our time improving people, processes and technology inside an organization. Are there ways we can complement the value in these areas with an external focus?

Other than bringing in other consultants with different (or better) skills, there is one good way that is effective and long-lasting. The kind of improvements you mentioned can benefit from external input in needs definition, design, implementation and, sustainability. To do this, you should consider how to connect your client with others with an interest in the client's success. This may be by geography, industry (even a competitor, under the right circumstances, might help), common customers, supporting industry (e.g., a vendor, supplier or channel partner), government or nonprofits, or customers themselves.

Your goal is to find key influencers that can complement your services or to supplement them in areas of need for the client but on which you are not working. This building of a network may not exactly be in your engagement scope but it is a benefit to both you and your client. Both you and your client benefit by making new contacts and gaining insight. Remember to get your client's permission to cast about for valuable influencers on their behalf.

Tip: Your collection of influencers could be contributed to your client as a formal advisory body, potential managers or staff, or just as informal community members to provide feedback. As you build your own network of influencers through this process, you will have an increasing depth of individuals and institutions on whom you can draw to bring to the table on your clients' behalf. Remember, it's not just what you know (about improving people, process and technology) but who you know (that you can introduce your client to).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  goodwill  guidance  networks 

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#590: Help Your Clients, and Yourself, Break Out of Silos

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 17, 2011
Updated: Friday, June 17, 2011
My partners have a running argument/discussion about whether our consulting firm is better off developing and refining our service lines or returning to the classic style of consulting where relationship-based personal service defined the profession. Some of us feel we provide better service when we can deliver evidence-based processes to our clients; others feel we should be letting the client lead on the approach. Is there an answer to this debate?

I suspect many professions evolve and generate this kind of debate over whether to move forward or return to former models. Your consulting firm is not the only one in which this discussion is taking place. Consulting has become competitive in its promotion of proprietary, research-based approaches, each firm asserting that it has unique knowledge, data or processes to improve a client's condition. This is fine, as long as the client gets to be a part of the design. Some clients have said that they feel like buying consulting services these days is like buying a house, except that they only get to pick existing houses rather than working with an architect to design their own. I suspect this "design" environment is what you mean when you talk about letting the client lead the approach.

Becoming enamored with our own approach, perspective and accomplishments is an occupational hazard as we become proficient in our professions. This is not limited to consulting. We would all benefit from stepping out of our silos and looking at the world from other perspectives. We shouldn't be relying on the same sources of information, advice or support. This should apply to we consultants as well as our clients. We should regularly check out other partners, different ways of approaching our work, and regularly confirm that we are not stuck doing things the same way when the market is calling for something new. Likewise, our clients should be looking at new ways of improving their business if the only consulting support is to take what the consulting firm offers from its own portfolio of appraoches.

Tip: Look at a short video by John Jay, Executive Creative Director and Partner of the Wieden + Kennedy advertising agency, in which he talks about how we get siloed and how this applies to both consultants and our clients. It is worth a few views and some discussion how you will take his advice and help your client do the same.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  guidance  learning  trends  your consulting practice 

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