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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 

#115: Demographics Can Hinder Consulting Team Alignment

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 21, 2009
I serve as engagement manager and make final decisions on our project approach, but some of the younger members of my team consistently push back on selecting strategy and tactics. Is it reasonable to expect that consulting team members recognize that we do projects a certain way or should I be more accommodating?

There are two issues here. The first is that having one "company way" to structure or execute projects may constrain you from delivering the best service to your clients. Each project has its own circumstances and preselecting an approach because you prefer it is inappropriate. In consulting, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The second, and possibly more significant, issue is the role demographics and perspective may play in this repeating scenario. If your partners differ in age, ethnicity, or gender (to pick just a few elements of diversity), it may well be that you approach consulting from an entirely different perspective. Take strategy formulation as an example. Your perspective can be on (ref Mintzberg) strategy as a plan, pattern, position, perspective, or ploy, and your approach could fall into one of the ten schools of strategy formation. Demographics influences your preferences for one approach over another (this presumes that strategy is even an appropriate approach for an organization). At the risk of generalizing, men tend toward mechanistic planning or positioning schools and women tend toward entrepreneurial or cultural schools. Older consultants may see the more orderly power or configuration school as the "obvious" construct, while younger consultants may favor cognitive or learning schools. This dynamic may also play out in your alignment with your clients if you have significant demographic differences with them.

Tip: Before you get to discussing engagement approaches, explore the constructs underlying your views of organizations and intervention. How do you see the roles of the consultant (advisor or partner), the use of information (confidentiality or full disclosure), the planning construct (analytical or cultural), client involvement (consultant turnkey or participative process), and timing (long windup grounded in full diagnosis or quick wins through rapid results processes)? When you understand your partners' (and client's) frame of mind, you'll have a better appreciation for how to align your engagement approaches.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  customer understanding  planning  product development  teaming 

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#113: Consultants Spending Too Much Time in the Chateau

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 19, 2009
It seems like most of an engagement is consumed meeting with the client and immediate staff. How much time should I spend with my client sponsor compared to time in the field?

The answer depends on the nature of the work. In World War I, a major criticism of generals was that they spent too much time in their chateau and not enough time in the field. They began to understand the theater and plan battles from the perspective of maps and models. Many historians posit that if they had spent more time in the field, they would have understood that weather, ground conditions, logistics and morale were much different than they had presumed. As a consequence, their plans might have been more realistic and effective.

If the scope of your consulting work is focused specifically on field operations and developing strategic, operational or cultural improvements, then much of your time is likely needed in the field. However, even if your work, say, is focused on improving administrative operations at corporate headquarters, you should still plan for and spend time in the field. You will develop a richer perspective, develop contacts and information sources, and perhaps see a part of the organization that your client sponsor may be missing.

Tip: In your project plan, explicitly include time to visit field operations (e.g., district offices, sales reps, plant operations). You don't need to visit every field operation, just enough to give you a solid sense of how they relate to the main office. Ask your client sponsor to make the introductions and accompany you on the trip(s). As appropriate, develop field contacts with which you can work to validate your work products and test out your recommendations. Don't be a chateau general.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  engagement management  planning 

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#108: Don't Start All Engagements from Scratch

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Can you provide some advice on how much to rely on client-provided reports from prior consultants' or internal staff work? If the prior recommendations were not implemented, how good can the assessments and recommendations be?

There are at least three issues here. First, don't link the lack of implementation to the quality of consultant analysis and recommendations. It may be that the client's circumstances or personnel changed before implementation could occur, or the needed investment was overruled higher in the organization. Second, the client can advise you on whether the previous work is or is not appropriate as a starting point or a complement to your work. There may be parts of the diagnosis that are great but the recommendations were unrealistic, or the engagement was expanded into areas for which the consultant was unqualified to perform. Use your judgment to evaluate the quality of each work product. Third, some consultants have aggravated clients to the point of being shown the door after providing superior service. The same recommendations coming from another advisor would be more readily accepted. How many of us have been asked in to pick up where another highly-regarded consultant has been asked to leave?

All these circumstances may indicate the relationship you are likely to have with this client and the likelihood of your own recommendations being implemented. Make sure you talk to your client about prior improvement efforts and why they did or did not succeed.

Tip: The client selected you for your judgment, experience and approach to addressing the organization’s issues. Ask for all information available, generated by both client staff and external consultants, that might provide insight, including historical perspective into your engagement. Although some clients may encourage you to use prior work, in which they have invested significant (and probably perceived as low or no return on investment), find a way to evaluate and use it within your stated project framework. Do you want the client to evaluate your effectiveness based on work done by another consultant?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  consulting process  engagement management  planning  recommendations 

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#96: Let Major Events at Your Prospect's Organization Guide Your Marketing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 20, 2009
Keeping my pipeline full requires a large amount of time devoted to watching my industries and disciplines and for those trends for which I can create new consulting services. Are there any tricks to make this go faster?

Let's back up a second and talk about your basic premise for marketing and selling consulting services. What you are describing is the longer term component of marketing, the one related to positioning your capabilities for evolution of the market. This is not the most effective, or efficient, way to secure new engagements in the near term. Organizations are looking for professional service providers to address their current problems and opportunities. Your approach will certainly help them think of you for an issue that comes up in the future but less so for today's crises. Consider focusing on the crisis just announced this morning, even better one that has yet to break in the news, as your entry point into an organization.

For example, the US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that it is awarding $55 million in grants for construction of new scientific facilities at universities in Houston, Auburn, Wilmington and Miami. If you are a facilities management, design or project management consultant, here is an announcement that should trigger your search for active players in these decisions to whom you can offer your valued services. These points in a manager's life are highly emotional, either by fear or desire, in which your services are most likely to resonate. Using these events as your marketing focus is more effective than what may or may not come in the future.

Tip: Select your target industries or companies and subscribe to news notification services that suit your needs and price range. You may use Google Alerts, Factiva, and LEXIS-NEXIS, and dozens of other services. Once you have mastered how to use these high level sources, begin to use sources that go deeper into emerging news such as industry newsletters and business sources that conduct interviews with executive and business unit managers.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  proposals  sales 

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#83: How to Keep Up With Science and Technology Trends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 1, 2009
With all the specialization of technology and the proliferation of journals for each discipline, I just don't have the time to stay current and be in a position to advise my clients of what trends will affect their business. Popular Science is too basic and Scientific American is too dense. Are there any good summaries?

In a prior tip (#815), we mentioned Technology Review, Popular Science, and Industry Week as publications with trend summaries that help consultants keep up with the range of technological developments that affect every business (and in which every consultant should be conversant). One we didn't mention is a service of Scientific American - their 60-Second Science series of podcasts, articles and blogs. Delivered directly to you, quickly reviewable to identify needs, full access to more detail, and free - sounds like just what the consultant ordered!

As a consultant, you need to be constantly scanning the literature for technology trends so you can stay ahead of your clients. The most helpful sources also have enough content behind them to dig deeper when you need to, something few newspapers and popular magazines have. The Scientific American series, also available as an RSS feed, lets you quickly scan topics to see what is most useful to you and click for summaries, click again for a full article, and click again for references. Whether you are in human resources, strategy, leadership, finance, or other disciplines, not being on top of these developments reduces your value to a fast-moving client.

Check out Scientific American's 60-Second Science website. Whether you subscribe to the RSS feed or just scan the topics once a month, look for a short article you can send to a prospect or client about a technology trend or recent research that will significantly affect their business, such as the well-researched article on how to green your office. And don't overlook content that will help you advance your own effectiveness, such as the article about the impact of exercise on mental capabilities.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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