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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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#456: Have Some Courage as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 13, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 13, 2010
What are some of the main stumbling blocks to a consultant's success?

There can be many such impediments, but David Maister says the biggest hindrance to a consultant's success is a lack of courage to stand by the long-term goals, plans and strategic vision they have set for themselves. We often help clients define and pursue their future but deny the same for ourselves.

The temptation to forego your long-term career/practice vision (and the supporting strategy for getting you there) in favor of short-term benefits (a quick pay check, the lure of steady work, stability, an intresting engagement, etc.) will at times be very high. Especially when the economy is slow overall or in your area or industry, it seems easy to divert from your path (assuming you have articulated one) without consequences. However difficult it might be in the long run, and assuming you confirm that your strategy and vision is sound, the courage of conviction will ultimately be more rewarding.

Tip: Having a long-term vision and strategy in place is critical for achieving whatever it is that you ultimately want to accomplish in your career. Standing by your strategy takes courage. Maister's book, The Trusted Advisor (2000 - Touchstone) regarding the importance of trust in client relationships is still well worth reading.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#454: Get Yourself a (Small Apartment) Kitchen Cabinet

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 9, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 9, 2010
I consider myself a disciplined professional but my New Year's resolutions for my business last year didn't get as much traction as I had hoped. What can I do to get back on track and execute these well?

This is a common problem, even among those of us who consider ourselves experienced professionals. Consider two aspects of what may well be a complex problem.

First, recall what your "plan" looks like. Did you write it down? Really? All of us have general ideas of what we expect to accompish in the next year. Fewer of us have written down specific near-term objectives and tied them to our overall business goals. Still fewer have explicitly linked those objectives with clear strategies and action plans. Find a middle ground, Plans that are too vague (or not written down) or too specific (the complex ten-page business plan for a small firm) are hard to execute.

Second, some perspective and external discipline is always valuable. Many business books recommend convening a "Kitchen Cabinet" of your accountant, lawyer, banker, financial advisor, and several others in similar consulting practice areas as you. Defining, convening and sustaining such an effort is often so difficult, however logical, that few ever do it. The objective is to get points of view different from yours, not points of view from everyone who could weigh in. The concept is good, but think in terms of a very small kitchen.

Tip: Identify two people who know you and your business. Ask them to look over your (1-2 page) plan and offer you some comments and suggestions. Ask them whether they think you have forgotten something or overlooked an opportunity. Finally, ask them if they would be willing to meet with you over lunch (your treat) in six months and at year end to go over your progress.  You may find that this provides to discipline you need to (1) get your objectives and strategies into simple terms, and (2) provide you with someone else, however informally, to look over your shoulder and help keep you on track.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  guidance  learning  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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#443: Think Like Sherlock Holmes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 25, 2010
Consulting is like detective work in that the objective is to figure out the not so obvious "truth" from clues that are not so easily found. Can the principles of good detective work be learned from studying or just from experience?

Consultants might want to learn how to play detective! We are often asked to solve a problem, figure out what caused a failure (or success), etc. Think of yourself as that famous London-based fictional sleuth of the late 19th/early 20th centuries who was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The next time you face a quandary, think "What would Sherlock Holmes do?" He would:
  1. Keep an open mind.
  2. Employ deductive reasoning.
  3. Recognize that the premise or the "solution" presented by the client may not be true - or even relevant.
  4. Investigate all possibilities thoroughly - especially those that others have dismissed.
  5. Look carefully at the details - and keep good records of details you might beable to use later.
  6. Look for connections, relationships, consistencies and inconsistencies.
  7. Ask lots of questions.
  8. Trust your gut - but be able to back it up with facts.
  9. Wear a disguise (or maybe not).
  10. Be relentless in his pursuit of the solution.
Tip: Good detectives develop patterns - both recognized patterns for those people who hold the truths they pursue, and for their own process to pursue it. Consultants would be wise to consider the same approach.

P.S. Did you know that Holmes never actually uttered that famous line "Elementary, my dear Watson" in any of Conan Doyle's four novels or 56 short stories featuring the character? Holmes does say "Elementary" in the book The Adventure of the Crooked Man, but the famous line does not appear in its entirety in any of Conan Doyle's stories. The full phrase seems to have originated in either a subsequent film or theater play (the actual source has been long debated) based on Conan Doyle's original work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  innovation  learning  planning 

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#430: How Good is Your Decision Making?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 5, 2010
Updated: Friday, November 5, 2010
After nearly thirty years of management consulting, I consider myseslf to have good perception about client issues and to be an excellent decision maker. When is it OK to trust my instincts and when should I turn to others for verification?

Asking means you are aware that you might not be as good a decision maker as your experience might indicate. In fact, many of us overestimate our perceptiveness or decision making accuracy. Think you are a good decision maker? Let's see.

Answer the following ten questions with a numerical range (one low and one high number) that you are 90% confident contains the correct answer (i.e., there is at most a 1 in 10 chance your range is too small). Next Monday we'll provide the answers so you can see whether your decision making confidence is warranted.
  1. Length of the Nile River (in miles)
  2. Diameter of the moon (in miles)
  3. Weight of an empty Airbus 380 (in pounds)
  4. Year in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born
  5. Gestation period of an Asian elephant (in days)
  6. Air distance from Chicago to Shanghai (in miles)
  7. Year the first spacecraft landed on the moon
  8. Area of US national parks (in square miles)
  9. Year in which Attila the Hun died
  10. Average population density of the US (in people/sq mi)
Print out this tip and next to each numbered item write a lower and upper bound estimate (no Googling the answers!). Check back Monday.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  education  knowledge management  planning 

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#419: Always Have a Streamlined Version of Your Briefing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 21, 2010
Occasionally I am presenting to a client and, due to some longwinded prior presentation, I am left with 45 minutes for my 90 minute time slot. I don't want to talk twice as fast or cut out important findings. Should I just ask to reschedule or is there another approach?

Unfortunately, this happens to many of us. One of the first rules of consulting is to "always have a five-minute version" of every presentation. Unfortunately, when presenting to a board, for example, you may not be the main event and other issues can run long. If you know your material well enough, you can easily skip a few slides here and there and advise the audience you are doing this due to lack of time.

Any presentation can be shortened. Years ago I went skydiving, waking up at 5am to drive to the airfield and go through 4 hours of classroom and physical training so we would be thoroughly prepared for all contingencies. When we got out to the plane, the instructor yelled over the roar of the engine, "You are all so excited that you have forgotten everything we talked about today so you just need to remember three things" (one of which was to smile). It actually did work out fine based on the shorter instructional version.

Tip: If you are concerned about this, request that your client schedule you first (or early), make clear that you need the full planned time or would prefer to reschedule, or prepare a short and long presentation (advising the client that they are paying for two versions). Ultimately, management of time available for your presentation is grounded in your client's respect for your time - and you. If these exist, you are unlikely to face a short time slot.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  meeting preparation  planning  presentations  speaking  teaching/training 

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