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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 

#680: Capture the Essence of Your Consulting Session

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011
I do a lot of facilitation and think I have worked out a good process to summarize the activities and outcomes of the sessions. I am always looking for an edge to improve the long term effectiveness of my facilitation. Any ideas?

We are all familiar with how quickly the memory and effect of these sessions can dissipate. People are brought together, who often may not know each other or know them well, and are expected to sustain a connection with each other and the outcomes of their work. By its very nature, this is a hard expectation to meet.

Our typical work product is a briefing to the client and some kind of written report. You probably know best what kinds of improvement within the facilitation process itself will work best for your clients, but here is an idea to strengthen the connection of participants to each other and to the outcomes. Take pictures of the event, including the setting (especially if it is an offsite event), the work room, facilitation teams, and even non work moments (meals, social time). Use a high resolution camera, not your camera phone. Make sure every participant is represented and that you can identify each of them. These can form the basis of a visual record of the event that significantly exceeds the impact or longevity

Tip: Create a picture book of the event, maybe even with commentary or quotes from the participants. There are many online services Blurb, Picaboo, Shutterfly and others) to which you can submit your photos and they will print up a book that you can provide to your clients (or all participants, if appropriate). With the price of print on demand decreasing in the past few years, this is becoming easier and cheaper. For less than $40, you can deliver an incredible memento for your clients (including a photo of you that will help them remember you even more). This will be an effective reminder of their work and something they likely haven't received from any other facilitator.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  creativity  facilitation  goodwill  recordkeeping 

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#661: No Excuse for Lost Computer Files

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, September 26, 2011
Updated: Monday, September 26, 2011
With eDiscovery rules in force, what are my options and obligations for storing records?

Consultants should be aware of the implications of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for discovery of electronic data. What is now required to be retained includes most electronically stored information (IMs, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, emails, voice mails, etc). You might be asked in a lawsuit to provide these records, and you should learn the rules for proper retention.

Courts can provide some allowance for reasonable "housekeeping" of emails and other work papers. However, once it becomes apparent that there is a legal issue, you must preserve all documents that might pertain to the lawsuit. The case a few years ago of nearly five million White house emails "inadvertently missing" is the kind of circumstance at which these procedures are aimed. The White House had an automatic records management system designed to store these records, but it was removed and deliberately not replaced, the kind of circumstance on which a court would not look favorably. Having some minimal procedures for record keeping (and following them) is important.

All consultants should read a good summary of e-discovery rules and, especially, how they apply to social media.

Tip: This tip is not a legal opinion or guidance, only a recommendation that all consultants should be aware of their legal obligations to store records. If you need a backup capability, purchase an external hard drive or select an online service like Mozy, Carbonite, Amazon Cloud or many other services. These can provide unlimited online automated backups for as little as $5/month (or 2-5 Gb storage for free).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  computer  legal  privacy  recordkeeping  security 

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#368: Protecting Your Ideas

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I have an idea I want to patent, but I am aware that it is a time-consuming and expensive process. How can I show my idea to a potential buyer while still providing some fundamental protection for my idea until it is formally patented?

A starting point might be a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) stating that the audience being presented to will not share (or ultimately use) the information being presented. Unfortunately, some companies will not sign these agreements. Also, many people will tell you that an NDA sounds good but they are very hard to really enforce. Nonetheless, the formality of an NDA will make the point that you are serious about your ideas.

You might also consider a Provisional Patent Application, which is available from the US Patent Office. The PPA was designed to provide a more affordable first U.S. patent filing, enabling you to quickly secure an initial filing date for your idea. A PPA also legally allows you to use the words "patent pending" — a warning to those who might copy your idea that they risk patent infringement.

Once you have filed a PPA, you have 12 months until the deadline arrives for filing a required full patent application. If you choose to file the full patent prior to the end of this 12 month period, the original PPA filing date can be used as the filing date on the full patent application. If, within that 12 month period, you decide that your idea in its current format is not "patent- worthy", you can simply abandon it, ultimately minimizing your up-front investment.

Tip: Filing for a U.S. patent can be complicated. A good place to start in order to gain some clarity is the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov). In addition, do not be afraid to seek out professional guidance and advice when required (e.g., a patent lawyer).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  confidentiality  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  product development  recordkeeping 

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#255: Taming the Email Monster (Part 2)

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 5, 2010
Updated: Friday, March 5, 2010
Your past Tips about managing email focus on controlling how much mail gets into your inbox by filtering, subscription control and filtering. Are there email management programs or add-ins programs that would also help?

There are a lot of data contained in your email beyond what is inside individual emails. Once you get control of the sheer volume of emails, to the point that you can be responsive to the content in each one, there is an opportunity to use the collective intelligence of your entire email traffic to improve the effectiveness of your communication. There are several free to low-priced applications to help you do this. Their purpose is to speed up your search for emails, show you who emails you the most, when most email traffic is sent to you, and

Xobni (inbox spelled backwards, get it?) is a clever third party application with both free and $30 versions. Xobni has really fast search, the ability to track message threads, find relationships between all the people who email you, pulls information from email signatures and content to enhance your contacts, and links your contacts to their Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles. This kind of application creates information from your email, far more than just managing it. For example, Xobni can determine who among your email contacts responds fastest to your emails, or when they most often email you (so you know when they are most likely to respond).

Tip: There are other applications, such as NEO (Nelson Email Organizer) and you might consider collections of add-ins (e.g., Top 50 Most Popular Outlook Add-Ons). Each of these has merits that you will need to evaluate for your own needs. Remember, it often takes a combination of behavior and technology to effectively manage your email.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  knowledge management  recordkeeping  social media  your consulting practice 

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#210: Saving Back Issues

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 1, 2010
Updated: Friday, January 1, 2010
I hate to throw out magazines but they take up space on my shelves. What can I do? I hate to lose my references when I need them.

There is an assumption embedded in your question that needs to be checked. This is that archived journals are worth saving. I would suggest that only a small fraction of journal articles are worth saving, and you will know them when you read them. A lot of what is published in journals is rehashing of old theories and cases. Especially when restricted to your particular industry and consulting discipline, there's just not that much in the way of new ideas

However, to keep a good hardcopy archive of your seminal articles, here are several approaches:
  1. Save the final issue of the year (usually the one with the "Reader Index") and box the rest for one year only.
  2. Clip the articles you want to save as you receive the issues and toss the rest immediately. As emotionally hard as this is, recognize that, unlike a decade ago, it is pretty easy to get most journal articles online almost immediately.
  3. Check and see whether those magazines archive online. If so, no need to save and maybe no need to purchase the hard copy subscription in the first place.
  4. Be sure you have a way to access these articles, once you have removed them from their "natural habitat” in journals with volume and page numbers. If you don’t have too many, a loose leaf notebook of electronic folder of scanned images may work well. Without this kind of access, these won’t be useful because you will never be able to locate them.
Tip: Online or electronic summaries are often available (e.g., at the end of each year, Harvard Business Review offers a CD with all its prior year's articles). There are often "special issues" which may be especially relevant, such as a "best articles of the year" or "top 10 articles on subject X". Finally, many hardcopy journals provide online access to past articles, including those before your subscription started and, since these articles are tagged by keywords, this makes it easier to find the kind of information online anyway. Aas uncomfortable as it may be, try hard to let go of paper.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  recordkeeping 

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