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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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#645: The Rising Value of Consulting Conferences

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 2, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 2, 2011
Having been to a few consulting conferences over the years, I was never a big fan. However, The Consulting Summit and Confab have gotten good reaction lately. Is there any reason to take a few days to go to these and what will I get out of them?

There are different conferences for different people and needs. The Consulting Summit, run by Kennedy Information's Consulting Magazine, is a one-day event focused generally on macro issues of the business and consulting market. The next one is being held in New York City on November 9, 2011. If you manage a larger firm, the people you can network with and the topics covered are appropriate for you. The Summit has been a great place to catch up with leaders of large firms and renew relationships.

Confab, run by IMC USA as its annual conference, is a 2-3 day event focused on client service, marketing and practice management issues. This year's conference will be held in Reno, NV on October 22-24, 2011. If you run a mid-sized or smaller firm and your focus is on new concepts in consulting practice, enhanced marketing and improving point of delivery skills, then Confab is for you. With the changes in client use of consultants, Confab is a great way to jump start new lines of business, to meet other executive level consultants from whom you can learn about new markets and new consulting techniques...

Tip: Some consultants consider conferences are beneath them. However, when markets change like they have in the past two years, don't let pride get in the way of learning why some of your business is about to decline or where some traditional consulting practices are falling out of favor. Consultants who attend conferences are those who can see changes in the marketplace and are always developing new services and meeting people with whom they can develop new business. These are the people you want to spend time with to invigorate your consulting practice

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  learning  market research  networks  planning  practice management  product development  professional development  referrals  trends 

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#634: Help Your Client With Chemistry

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 18, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011
As consultants, we are often retained to solve a particular problem only to discover cultural or leadership problems that need to be solved first. Sometimes discovering this social or leadership disconnect takes a long time to really surface. Is there a tool or methodology to shortcut the discovery process if we suspect something like this?

Surfacing this kind of intangible is what separates experienced from new consultants. Years of experience in a range of industries and organizational settings sensitizes us to both the existence of these social issues and to their likely solution. However, you asked about the discovery process so here is one area to consider. Although you may need specialized expertise, some reading up on network analysis is useful.

Social Network Analysis (SNA) is being used by companies, sports teams and military units to surface the team power, work and influence networks and dynamics within and among teams. A team, or company, is at peak performance when it "clicks." When there is internal dissension, miscommunication or ambiguous roles, performance plummets regardless of the capability of individual team members.

This synergy effect is just as important for your consulting interventions. As smart as you are and as clever your recommendations, your client's performance will suffer if the organizational chemistry isn't here. An SNA analysis will tell you quickly where these social glitches exist and who is in a position to address them.

Tip: The dramatic impact of transforming a collection of stars into a high performing team is clearest for sports teams, when you see a cohesive team of average players beat a group of individual stars. A collection of SNA cases will give you the perspective to quickly assess whether there are social or cultural landmines and the extent of a formal SNA required as part of your diagnosis.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  customer understanding  management theory  networks 

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#612: Use Technology to Organize Your Knowledge

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2011
We have a client who wants to communicate the diversity of its various offices, its supplier network and other stakeholders. We want to make this available on their website in an organized fashion but there are some areas with a lot of content and some with a small amount, and a hierarchical structure is too cumbersome. What is a good way to organize this kind of disparate content?

Your question is a consulting task itself rather than a consulting tip because answering it requires more information about content type and volume, marketing intent, web capabilities, how the web fits into overall visibility strategy), how viewers are to use the data, etc. However, you may find some new technologies applicable, and these may be useful to your own consulting practice.

The usefulness of content hierarchies depends on a balance of volume, richness, depth and usefulness of content. Asymmetric content like you imply does make traditional lists or folders unwieldy. An alternative, available over the past few years, is visual network applications. Displayed graphically, these networks allow the user to interact with a network diagram to drill down or reconfigure content. Examples are Pearltrees and Spicynodes.

Pearltrees allows you to organize web pages in a network, with one main site (node) in the middle and branches you configure to other, related sites (the content of which you likely do not control). Intended to show how you organize your favorite web content, Pearltrees is a browser add-on to replace bookmarks and folders and (here is the powerful part) can be configured to connect to Pearltrees of others, much like is possible through delicious.

Spicynodes is similar but has static content entirely under your control. It is a way to visually organize information in a way that mimics the way you browse for content by exploring across links rather than looking at a series of folders. Both applications have galleries of sample networks. Both may take some learning but for what you describe, both would be powerful and intriguing ways to array information.

Tip: Consultants should keep current with these technologies for visual display of information for both their own use and to give a potent value added for their clients. Consider the relative impact of a few dozen static web pages and a more visual, intuitively navigated display like this. These also could be used to display information related to your engagement findings and recommendations. Lots of possibilities.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting tools  data visualization  information management  innovation  knowledge management  networks  presentations  usability 

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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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#569: Take the Opportunity to Chair at a Conference

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 19, 2011
Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2011
I was asked to serve as a chair at a conference. Even though I know this will give me exposure and help me develop skills I might not get elsewhere, it is a commitment of time. Is this a worthwhile activity?

Absolutely. Conferences are one of several ways to prove to your colleagues and clients that you are a professional consultant. Like most industries or professional disciplines, consulting moves fast enough that you (and clients) can quickly tell who is keeping up with the latest developments and who isn't.

Thinking that conferences aren't useful because they "take time away" from delivering services or developing new business is like assuming the same thing about sleeping. Conferences are a place to pick up best practices, meet other consultants, test new ideas and develop business. They are an efficent way to do all four of these necessary activities.

Take the opportunity to participate in conference planning and operations. It provides incredible visibility and access to other professionals. Demonstratef competence helping to run a conference positions you as a trusted and capable consultant that others think of when it is time to pick business partners because they have seen you in action. This is not just for consultants "starting out" but is also valuable for senior consultants. Make sure, though, that you actively manage and maintain those relations after the conference.

Tip: IMC USA's annual conference Confab is one of the best conferences for visibility. For over 30 years, Confab has been the largest conference for consultants and by consultants in the US, and a continuing source of business for professional consultants who stay involved. There are still opportunities to be a part of the conference team.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  education  goodwill  learning  networks  professional development  reputation  speaking 

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