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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 

#578: Get Control of the Old Kind of Information: Paper

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I've got pretty good processes and tools to filter and control electronic information but paper is another matter. Is it easier to convert to an all electronic info system or is getting control of paper going to be just as hard as electronic?

Whether your business is paper–based or paper–less, consultants waste an unbelievable amount of time and energy looking for things that should be properly filed and easily retrievable. It doesn't really matter how you do it—alphabetically, by subject, by category or type, by follow–up date, etc.—just choose the way that works best for you and make sure it gets done on a regular basis.

The simple trick is finding the reason your paper piles up in the first place. Avoiding having piles of unknown content sitting around "waiting to be filed," gets us off to a good start. You can figure out a triage system that works for you but a few failsafe ideas I have used may help. For paper magazines and journals (remember those?), set aside a file folder (e.g., 4 inches wide) and add new issues to the left side as they arrive. Commit to not have any issues except those in the file folder, and when it gets full, discard issues from the right side. Depending on your compulsiveness and curiosity, it is amazing how fast you can go through a journal when it is headed for the trash. I also take those on plane rides and don't bring them home.

Tip: The key to effective filing is a logical system and disciplined execution. Everything goes in a file folder - no piles of unread or unfiled paper, just like your electronic files should all go in a folder. This helps you categorize everything and highlights when something has no home and is just "interesting," a likely sign that it will never be acted on and should be discarded or recategorized. Don't forget the "round" file or shredder. For many non-critical pieces of information we encounter, these are the most appropriate permanent filing locations.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  your consulting practice 

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#556: Draft Your Presentations Without Words

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 2, 2011
We all know how awful it is to hear a "Death by PowerPoint" presentation that is read off word for word. However, for consultants, who often have to provide a lot of conceptual information, dense text is a logical way to present findings and recommendations. What is a good way to resolve this conflict?

If concept is the communication objective and dense text is the enemy, then the solution may be easier than you think. Think creatively for a second. You want to make a conceptual point, have it be quickly understood and memorable, and not have the audience be distracted by reading your points from slide text. Try making each slide a single image and convey your concepts verbally.

Consultants are infamous (having spent days or weeks collecting and analyzing data) for wanting to provide all this "knowledge" to their client audience. There are a limited number of points an audience can or wants to remember. Pick an image that powerfully and memorably expresses the main point you want to make. If you are talking about finding a way to reach a new market with a pilot prior to a full scale campaign, consider a photograph of a rope bridge. If you want to show how the client's organization is ready to make changes, use the iconic "We Can Do It" poster from World War II showing how women were ready to take up industrial jobs.

Tip: Be creative and find just the right image (after securing the appropriate digital rights) to express the emotion and concept. The best images are the memorable ones, either because they are iconic (a familiar poster or person), unique and/or induce an emotional reaction (funny, sad or empathetic). Help your audience to mnemonically associate your concepts with your images.

P.S. Consider creating your presentation as a set only of images. If you can clarify your message with a set of 5 or 10 images, then you can (if you really think it helps) expand or supplement with word slides. You might be surprised how powerful a limited set of images can be to create a memorable and clear presentation.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  presentations 

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#546: Build a System to Help You Keep Your Promises

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 18, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 18, 2011
It is embarrassing when a client takes me to task for a member of my consulting team failing to deliver on a promise that I didn’t know about. I have tried action planning sheets and daily debriefs but these don't seem to work. Short of removing this person from the team, are there any clever consultant tricks to solve this problem (and might work for my whole team).

Removing this person from your client-facing team or not allowing them to make commitments to the client is no replacement for inherent professionalism and business maturity. Project organization and client communication are essential skills for a consultant, even for a junior team member.

However, being in a fast-paced consulting engagement (or several at a time with several clients) can be a challenge to keep track of client and other commitments. Most of us keep these in a calendar, in an online journal, contact manager, email system, project management system, or separate client notes. There are a lot of systems to track formal projects deliverables but none I know of specifically to track those commitments that arise continuously in conversations and informal written communications.

You may want to develop a system that could work for your whole team that tracks these "loose" commitments. I have used a low-tech system that is relatively effective in not losing commitments and helping me evaluate how and how many these I create (knowing when you are overpromising is also important).

Tip: I use a deck of colored 3x5 cards. Each color represents a different person or type of person to whom I make a commitment (client, family, self, colleague, association). On it I write date, person to whom I will deliver, the product to deliver, likely time/resources required, and due date. On the back I can add notes or references as I discover them. Cards are for explicit commitments, not general "notes to self." I can sort the cards by target, date, or effort required (the latter so I can knock off a few short tasks or know when I have a major task to complete). When the stack gets big, I lay off on voluntary commitments. When one color dominates, I trim it down. When due dates arrive, I make sure to set aside the time. If I forget cards, I (usually) make a note and transfer to a card when I can. Invent a system that works for you and let/make your team use it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consulting tools  engagement management  information management  innovation  your consulting practice 

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#451: It's Always a Good Idea to Have an Idea Box

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 6, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 6, 2010
In my reading and going to conferences and professional development events, I often run across ideas that resonate but don't apply to my consulting practice right now. Later, I wish I could remember where those ideas came from. Any ideas how to track down these ideas?

You can always use Google or other Internet search tools to find resources related to an idea you recall. You can even use an arcane technique, rarely used these days, called "asking a colleague." This does require picking up the phone or getting together to talk with someone, but the technology still works!

However, what about those great ideas you don't recall but might be just what you need? You know a great idea when you see or hear it. We suggest creating in "Idea Box (or Folder, or File)."

Ideas come in many formats - images, scribbled notes, electronic documents, recordings, etc. Converting them to electronic format is hard because it seems like too much effort and organizing them is hard because the filing taxonomy isn't clear when you are collecting random ideas.

Just set up a box, file drawer, or folder to collect hand written notes, pictures, printouts, magazine articles, etc. that strike you as interesting. Make notes on each of what impressed you and how you might use this in the future. If there is a specific time you might use it (e.g., ideas for speeches, when you land a certain client), set up a category (folder) for those items.

Tip: Regularly go through the Idea Box and toss out bad ideas and update notes. Over time, an organizing scheme will become evident. This will keep your innovation pipeline full and help you create new services for clients and your practice.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  intellectual property  knowledge assets  market research 

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#375: Take Your Online Searches Deeper

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 20, 2010
Updated: Friday, August 20, 2010
Google used to be a great compilation of web information, but now I can't tell if the first few pages of the million plus hits I get are there because they have the content I want or because of clever search optimization techniques. What's coming in technology to make my searches more productive?

Until recently, information searching on the web was largely linear and mechanical - the computer looked for exactly what you specified in your search, adjusted a little by search optimization (which may not be based on factors you considered important). We are headed (slowly) to a "semantic web," in which the computer can execute some of the nuanced search functions only humans could provide. This will require restructuring of information and a host of other changes to fully implement, so we are left with tweaking current technology.

For now, there are two easy approaches, depending on how sophisticated you want to go. First, use a segmented search engine like Yippy (formerly Clusty), which clusters search results. For example, if you look for "management" it will group search results into management systems, software, international, business, etc. categories to give you better direction than a long linear list.

Second, you can "go deep" by using a new Deep Web add-in to your browser. This features returns tag clouds that let you see the context of your results and the relative frequency of hits, and sorts answers by blogs, news, Wikipedia, etc. A Deep Web search provides a more complete view of what exists and enhances your perspective about how to improve your search.

Tip: Don't expect the browser to do all the work. It's as much about your search techniques and choice of keywords and phrases as it is about the technology. If you don't fully understand the question to which you seek answers, the Deep Web or any other technology will not help much.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  data visualization  information management  knowledge management  technology 

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