Posted by: Tom Read | Posted on: December 3rd, 2012 | 1 Comments
I’ve been mulling over a few management consulting lessons learned over the years. I threw out the ones that are boringly obvious, and kept others (that are less boringly obvious). Here are three of my favorites:
Turn “everything” into an action
Years ago I vividly recall sending an article to a consulting firm partner and writing, in the subject, “this is an interesting article.” He shot back (rudely but effectively), “I don’t care about ‘interesting.’ How does it help me? “
What a powerful sentiment! Since then, I have always tried (but not always followed through) transforming “interesting” into an action. The next time you find something on the web that you think would be a good read for your client or colleague, think about how the client or colleague could use the information and put a spin on it that way. Instead of: “Attached is an interesting article about insider threat legislation,” try: “the references on page 4 of the attachment are great support for your message to the executive committee—they should help you get funding approval.”
If you really want to know, you have to find out
People love to ask provincial questions– narrowly focused on their own unique challenges– which derail or confuse the outcomes of the working group meeting you are trying to facilitate. Typically, the solution to this is “the parking lot.” I don’t much like this solution– I would prefer to immediately assign the questioner the task of answering the question by the next meeting (or relevant milestone). This accomplishes three things: it holds people accountable for their actions, it forces people to be actively involved in the project itself, and it deters others from going down the same path. Try it out—it works like a charm.
History doesn’t repeat itself exactly
Fragments of frameworks, methodologies, tools, and approaches swirl around the consultant’s brain, ready to be quickly and confidently applied to a problem. Consultants also have a wide assortment of biases, “pattern recognition” and other behaviors picked up over the years. It is very helpful, from time to time, to pretend not to have had these experiences, but instead to look at the world anew. For example, I often like to think about a problem in isolation—using just logic and reason. Once you get going down this path, your experiences will make your solution more robust. In other words, don’t start with your experiences to shape your answer—instead, shape your answer first and then apply your experiences.