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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 

#730: Prove That Your Consulting Practices Are Effective

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 30, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011
How would you recommend management consulting as a whole improve its effectiveness?

The traditional definition says, "A management consultant is a professional who, for a fee, provides independent and objective advice to management of client organizations to define and achieve their goals through improved utilization of resources." Buried in this widely held definition lies the challenge for consultants. "Independent and objective" often ends up interpreted as thinking in novel ways about business and management, adapting a presumed "best practice" to a new situation or developing entire new management concepts to promote a portfolio of services with which we are familiar and practiced. Nowhere is the primacy of evaluation and proof that what we are proposing actually works. Many of commonly used and highly promoted consulting practices lack validation. To be sure, our approaches are logical, they align with other management theories and our client seem to have done OK after we applied them. Where is our proof of value? Evidence-based intervention is increasingly required in medicine, but not for consulting.

We as professionals need to develop a deeper capability to recommend and deliver to our clients only those practices and strategies that are provably effective. Proving effectiveness is hard, which is why it is rarely pursued. So we develop consulting approaches that are:
  • Too old - we propose approaches that were (maybe) effective a decade ago when the economy, culture and management practices were entirely different but are no longer applicable.
  • Too new - we propose something we just read about in a management journal (most of which these days are written by consultants) but that has only been tried a few times, much less proven effective widely or over the long term.
  • Too abstract - we propose convoluted and theoretical processes that we understand well but for which the client and staff have no realistic capability to adopt or sustain.
A healthy skepticism to consulting techniques is our best defense against obsolescence as a profession and as individual consultants. Look at most "standard" management concepts from the past thirty years and you can find legitimate and well researched evidence why they are inappropriate for consultants to apply in many circumstances and potentially hazardous in others. We are now fully into a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) where the pace and scope of business exceeds the ability of any individual to think through improvement approaches by him or herself. The standard of proof for consulting effectiveness will continue to increase.

Tip: Seek out disconfirming evidence for every concept, process, approach or technique you have in your consulting portfolio. There are good resources available. For an overview of how to think critically about your consulting approach at a high level, read carefully Flawed Advice and the Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They're Getting Good Advice and When They're Not. For a more specific critique of individual techniques, look at Calling a Halt to Mindless Change: A Plea for Commonsense Management. Being a true professional means that, before we promote approaches we assume to be effective, we make sure we can defend our current practices in the face of logic and evidence that they neither make sense nor really work all that well.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  assessment  client service  consulting process  consulting skills  consulting terminology  consulting tools  diagnosis  education  innovation  learning  management theory  methodology  performance improvement  practice management  professional development  professionalism  quality  roles and responsibilities  sustainability  technology  trust  values  your consulting practice 

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#706: Build Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011
I know that my consulting practice should be changing as fast as the businesses of my clients. I just don't have time to create new lines of service. Any ideas how to put a little more innovation into my practice?

Good question, and one many consultants don't ask themselves. Whether you call it staying fresh, ahead of the curve, or innovative, consultants must constantly create new value. Let's talk about how.

Your inspiration for innovation should come first from your clients, and those organizations you wish to serve. They are either in need of new services or are actually asking you for additional services. Be attentive to their needs and discuss possible new services with them. Be aware that your innovation can come from processes, technologies or culture, and it can be about how they do business or about how they are served by you or others.

The second source of innovation is from your colleagues and from consulting conferences. Members of your network are providing services that, with a few adaptations, could add to your own. Find a collection of consultants with diverse practices who discuss trends in consulting and are also looking to innovate. Conferences like Confab are great places to meet with senior consultants with whom you can develop new areas of interest and potentially team.

Tip: However you decide to innovate, do it through a steady process, whether you develop new areas of practice or are tweaking current ones. Take one of your primary services and spend a month improving it. Find a more effective way to describe your service to prospective and current clients (this might give you some ideas about what areas of value might be missing). Work on delivery mechanisms, taking advantage of new analytical technologies, communication approaches, or adult learning research. Ask colleagues for examples of how they provide similar services. Finally, ask your clients how you could improve your service - they will probably appreciate being asked, since so few consultants do so. Work on innovation; don't just wait for it to happen.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  innovation  market research  process  product development  quality  technology 

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#690: Social Bookmarking is a Key Tool for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 4, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 4, 2011
Consultants use the Internet for information, techniques and research. My colleagues, as well your Daily Tips, provide great URLs but I've heard about social bookmarking as a way to find better sites faster. What is social bookmarking?

Think about trying to organize all your favorite sites or articles from among the billions of web pages. You bookmark good sites and tell your friends, but the web is too dynamic for you to find, much less organize or keep up to date, them all. You can subscribe to clipping services or Google Alerts, both of which will feed you a stream of data. The problem is that these are mechanically and keyword generated and may not be really what interests you.

Social bookmarking is a better way to organize your bookmarks through tagging and to take advantage of the best thinking and judgment of your peers to collectively identify the most relevant sites. You have better and faster access to sites you can use in ways you wouldn't otherwise ever have known about.

A social bookmarking survey (a few years ago) showed that 6 out of 7 people don't use social bookmarking (also called content discovery services) because they don't know about them, don't understand how they work or don't understand their value. If you haven't heard of Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati or other sites, sign up for them and start getting advice from those you know and trust, not just those generated by a machine. It will amaze you how much interesting and useful content you can have fed regularly to you.

Tip: Like any new skill or practice, this is worth a few minutes of your time to master. It goes without saying that your client can benefit from your showing them how to keep up with the latest technology. Who doesn't want to look like a star to our clients?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  market research  social media  technology 

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#678: Keep an Eye on the Future

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Regardless of consulting focus, technological advances influence both how our industries change and how we run our consulting practices. Since I am not a technology person, how can I stay on top of these advances with a modest amount of effort?

Evolving technology is more than just electronic gadgets. It involves materials, communication, manufacturing processes, transportation, energy, medicine and healthcare, analytics, etc. Advances in any one or combinations of these areas will dramatically affect strategy, operations and culture of your clients. Think about how social networking technologies have changed how professionals communicate in just a few years and how cell phones and GPS have spawned entire new industries.

In less than an hour a month, you can keep up with these developing technologies. Several periodicals summarize how technology will change our business and personal lives. Here are three examples - but you may look around and find your own:
  • Industry Week describes, for a business readership, current events and trends in areas as diverse as energy, technology policy, and innovating companies.
  • Popular Science describes, for a lay readership, near-term, consumer-oriented products and processes.
  • Technology Review describes, for a more technical readership, specific technologies and how they could transform industries, including a range of special reports for individual technology groups.
Tip: There are many more sources but these provide a quick overview with just enough technical details and links to more if you are interested. Set up links to these periodicals in your favorites folder and a tickler to check them regularly, at least monthly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  product development  professional development  technology  trends 

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#667: Cell Phone Manners

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The great thing about texting is that I can stay in touch with people even when I am in a meeting without interrupting anything. Isn't this better than taking a cell call?

The message you send (and I mean the one to your client, colleague or others with whom you are meeting, and not the text message) is that they are easily demoted to lower importance by anyone else who happens to want your attention. Most people feel the same way about being bumped by a text message as being told by someone with caller notification who says, when beeped in the middle of a call, "oh, just let me see who this is." The message is that whatever we are talking about is so unimportant that, even though I don't know who is on the line, I'd rather be talking to them.

The same applies to texting, even though it is less obvious. If you know you are likely to be interrupted with an emergency message (e.g., waiting for word from the hospital) then announce this in advance to the person or group you are meeting with, just as you would with an expected incoming phone call. If you must make or receive a text, excuse yourself from the room while you do it. Just because it does not involve conversation does not mean that it does not interrupt or annoy others.

Tip: The good thing about cell phones is that you can turn them off when you are in a meeting or talking with someone else. Giving them your undivided attention is just a matter of basic respect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  meetings  reputation  technology 

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