Consulting tip: Powerpoint sniff test

Was at a table tonight with 5 ex-management consultants from the Big 4. When discussing some slides we had seen from recent MBAs, one person smartly commented on his PowerPoint sniff test: Every page should be judged to see if it passes. . . BS test SO WHAT test NEXT STEPS test This all makes sense. It’s a… Read More »

Bain & Co: Guide to Thanksgiving

After writing 3 non-stop blog posts on presentations, here is an awesome one. Bain & Co  (apparently) put together a presentation and recommendation on how to get the most out of Thanksgiving here. You can find the 12 page pdf at a half dozen places on the web, all pretty much “saved” from 2005. So geeky and… Read More »

Category: Fun

Slideology 3: Designing effective slides

This is the final section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). I am going to pick and choose what to share with readers. Consulting presentations (for good or bad) are fairly conservative and a bit regimented. As a result, the parts of the books about color, tone, font type, backgrounds, icons etc. . . is a bit… Read More »

Slideology 2: Use diagrams to tell stories

This is the second section review of Duarte’s Slideology (affiliate link). This agency has become a sensation after they did Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation and also a famous TED talk here. Chapter 2  – Create ideas, not slides. I will largely skip this chapter as the idea of brainstorming, understanding the WHY, sketching out… Read More »

Slideology 1: Making bad slides is easy, and it will negatively impact your career – Duarte

Slideology is a book from 2008 about PowerPoint. It is well-structured, thoughtful, and a massively influential book in the “presentation business”.  It makes a whole lot of sense to me and is quite easy-to-read. Nancy Duarte has been doing this for 20+ years and makes some crazy good points. After listening to a podcast interview,… Read More »

How I Built This Podcast – BCG and Beer

If you are like me, you love listening to successful people tell their stories – for their confidence, ingenuity, fears, failures, heroism, goofiness, and ultimately success. We see a little of ourselves in them and experience the art of good story-telling. So, listen to this NPR podcast called How I Built This – where they interview Jim… Read More »

McKinsey: How big is the gig economy?

McKinsey & Co published a very authoritative 148 page study here (3.8Mb pdf) arguing a fairly simple (perhaps obvious) fact; the number of people freelancing is larger than you might think (20%+) and growing quickly. For those who already do project-based solo work this is non-news. We all know ex-consultants, Uber drivers, photographers, web-sign designers, caterers, eBay arbitragers, mortgage attorneys, and real… Read More »

Consulting tip: study charts, tables, graphs

Consultants see patterns. It’s a core part of our job to analyze data, separate the signal from the noise, and interpret the patterns. Some are better than others and it’s a talent that takes time to turn into a skill. Find good presentations and study them. Like an craftsman who can appreciates solid work, geek out on graphs and analyses.… Read More »

What is FOMO?

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Yes, we all have it sometimes. Social anxiety. It’s that nagging fear you that you might be better off – somewhere else, with someone else, doing something more fun. It’s that high-school sense of peer pressure to not be left out of the group. It’s that hint of jealousy and benchmarking to see how you’re doing… Read More »

Consulting tip: Minto’s Pyramid Principle

Repost. This is from 4 years ago and covers the Minto’s pyramid principle – one of the most important concepts in executive communication and logical structuring of arguments. This is really big at all the big 4 and big 3. It is the scaffolding of management consulting thinking. My revised thoughts (2016) shown in red color. Consultants must structure… Read More »

Trust without clear expectations = fail

Trust, but verify. This is a Russian proverb that US President Ronald Reagan learned and used frequently when speaking about the Soviet Union and nuclear arms reduction verification in the 1980s. I use it quite a bit too – and when delivered with good comedic timing – it can be quite funny. Trust people. But don’t be so naive to… Read More »

Grit matters more than talent

Grit is a casual word which means “resolve” in English. Endurance with a mission. Doing something difficult and not giving up. It is the opposite of complacency or indecision. Clearly, people with grit are going to be more successful – because by definition, they are not giving up. That said, how important is it? Is it more important that… Read More »

Career tip: What is an informational interview?

Of the many things I learned in MBA, the “informational interview” is one of those gems that remains relevant a decade later. Information interviews. They are simply low-expectation, business meetings with (relative) strangers to find out more about an industry, company, or opportunity. It is a win-win: The interviewee has the opportunity to be generous – with their… Read More »

Retirement tip: rental properties 101

Note this post is about rental properties – not about consulting. That said, all consultants and professionals making $$$, need to start putting money away to get yourself retired? It’s actually a question that I ask most all of my friends, and even acquaintances: “What are you doing to get money working for you (assets) so you can… Read More »

Bain: Founder’s Mentality

Founder’s Mentality is a simple and elegant framework from Bain that describes how companies lose their way as they grow. The path from start-up to global juggernaut is not a straight line and Bain research shows that only 1 in 9 companies show sustainable growth for 10+ years. They call it the growth paradox – growth creates complexity and complexity kills growth. As consultants – I… Read More »

Consulting basics: What is a SOW?

A statement of work (SOW) is a phrase you will hear almost daily in your life as a consultant. It’s a client-facing document that outlines what the consultant is proposing to get done on a new project or phase of work. This is particularly important why? Because new projects are the lifeblood of a firm’s utilization, profitability, and career… Read More »

Corporate training: $70 billion largely wasted?

Corporate learning and development is a huge market. Training magazine estimates here that it is approximately $70 billion annually for companies with more than 100 employees.  While that is a huge number, it feels about right. All of this training takes the form of L&D headcount, outside consultants, training tools, travel, and other education spending. They estimate… Read More »

Case interview advice from Bain

It’s consulting interview season which means well-groomed MBAs are sitting across small tables with consulting firm partners and senior managers in something called a case interview. For those readers from consulting firms – you know this fire drill – and probably remember it fondly like Marines who remember “hell week”. Case interview advice. For those in the throes of case interview for full-time… Read More »

Review: BCG 2016 M&A Report

2015 was a blockbuster M&A year. Lot of big name deals as companies re-position themselves and push for growth in a slow-growth, low-interest rate environment. Good times for investment bankers and due diligence big 4 firms. BCG 2016 M&A report here. 2016 has slowed down. BCG notes that 1H 2016 is down 27% YoY, but still flat compared to 10-year average. Remember, this… Read More »

Billionaires part 2: The Bad

Too many billionaires? That can be bad: Ruchir Sharma is an investment strategist for Morgan Stanley who focuses on emerging markets. He uses a 10 point system to evaluate the investment-worthiness of countries, and the billionaire index is one of them. He makes a simple but logical macro-economic argument against having a large % of a country’s wealth… Read More »

Billionaires part 1: The Good

Billionaires are more common than ever. Ruchir Sharma- Morgan Stanley global strategist – notes in Rise and Fall of Nations (affiliate link) that the number of billionaires increased from 1,011 to 1,826 between 2009-2014. That is a 80% increase in billionaires over 5 years.  If the number of “billionaires” were a stock, it would been a great investment. As… Read More »

Review: PwC Global 100 Software Leaders

PWC released their 4th report on top 100 global software leaders here.  Of course you will see the major bulge-bracket software companies (Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, EMC etc), but you will also see a lot of names that you may interact only tangentially.  For example, companies like Kronos (timekeeping), Workday (HR software as a service), Concur (expense… Read More »

Review: 2016 BCG Global Challengers

In sharp contrast from the last post about slow global growth, BCG writes in their 10th annual report about emerging market companies that are killing it. BCG notes that the top companies – i.e. highlighted in this report – are growing revenues at 3x the market with above average margins. The old days when multi-national firms… Read More »

Are emotions contagious in the workplace?

Yes, they are. Emotions are contagious. Lots of research on this topic and a great TEDx talk here by Brandon Smith showing that, yes, emotions do exist at work and play a much larger role than you might think. I am a huge believer that culture trumps strategy and the importance of leaders in setting the direction and an environment of… Read More »

Invest time in people, experiences, assets, and writing

Grandpa-sounding advice coming your way. Here is a thesis for you to test out.  Do you agree with this statement? There are 4 smart ways to invest time: people, experiences, assets, and writing because all these things get more valuable over time. In the age of immediacy and instant access, your relationships, memories, passive income, and point of view will be unique to… Read More »

World’s worst question: “Are you sure?”

This is my least favorite expression in all of consulting. “Are you sure?” Built into the question is a lack of trust, glibness, superficial concern with accuracy over meaning, and honestly, a bit of disdain. It’s a superficial question. It’s the kind of question that is asked out of (bad) habit and does nothing to really add… Read More »

Sadly, 20 email tips

Surprisingly, many people use email poorly. They write long-winded email essays that are ambiguous, and often copy too many people. These sloppy people create more confusion, frustration and rework. In this case, more communication is actually worse. Email tip: Take 15 seconds to think before you send out emails.  What am I trying to say, am I sending… Read More »

Consulting tip: Watch videos on LEAN

Lean. Toyota Production System. These are words and concepts that any business person should readily know and understand – even if you are not an operations consultant. Process improvement initiatives built on these concepts take out billions of dollars of waste every year – from every industry. A typical LEAN consulting project will easily take out $1-5 million of waste –… Read More »

Leading by example, with data entry?

Yes, this morning I did 4 hours of data entry.  Yes, data entry.  Our project was in a time crunch and we had major issues getting good operational data, so we begrudgingly took some print outs and manually typed them into excel. Yikes.  Yes, we did look at other OCR (optical character recognition) methods like ABBY,… Read More »

Peter Drucker Quotes: “Time”

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker is a a classic.  Written 40+ years ago, and still enormously relevant.  You can find pdf online for free or buy it used at Amazon for $2 (affiliate link).  A steal. Great quotes from Drucker (shown in blue italics) on the subject of time: Time is THE most valuable resource. Effective executives know… Read More »

Review: Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2016

Deloitte 2016 Global Human Capital Trends was released here (5.6Mb). It is a 124 page manifesto of well-organized thinking on how the workplace is changing, what employees want, and how the old way of thinking about human resource (read: people) just does not work. In real consulting style, the survey is rigorous – interviews and surveys of more… Read More »

BCG: New CEO’s Guide to Transformation

The title of the BCG report sounds serious, but its a bit of a gem – easy to read and understand.  Download here (1Mb pdf). Boils down to three points: Successful CEOs need to plan the transformation before they start work Transformation is expensive, need to fund the journey with cost takeout There are 10 types of transformations; see… Read More »

Consulting tip: How to make a good survey

Consultants should use surveys more often. They are cost-effective, seemingly impartial, easy to use, and provide data in the “touchy and feel-y” areas where data might be hard to find, collect, or quantify. Bain, PWC, BCG, Deloitte all use surveys; see the links at the bottom of the post. Even on this website, readers reply to surveys to… Read More »

What is deliberate practice?

It takes more than 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that people have to practice for 10,000+ hours before becoming experts. At the time, this dispelled the idea that it is just raw talent or genius at work. No, he concluded, it takes lots and lots of practice to be excellent at something. When listening to the most recent Freakonomics podcast here entitled How… Read More »

Consultant’s gripe: US education is a mess

Many of my friends have school-age children and they worry about their kid’s education. Sadly, they have a lot of reasons to be worried. For all the recent innovation, changing business models, and dedication of some teachers. . . US public education is a mess.  Every few years, more than 470,000 students in 65 countries… Read More »

Rough consulting week: Embrace the suck

Last week was brutal. Was glad to just make it through the days without disappointing people or making too many mistakes. I had 32 different conference calls, a boat-load of work, a dentist appointment and planning for my mom’s 70th birthday. Apparently, the military uses an expression which was entirely appropriate last week: “Embrace the suck“,… Read More »

Rolling Stones in Cuba: Glasnost

Written 07/08/2016 Looks like 8 airlines were given clearance to fly to Cuba here. Written 03/26/2016 Cuba Glasnost. This is HUGE news for the US, Cuba, and the world. The United States severed diplomatic ties with Cuba and had a trade embargo for 50+ years. While only symbolic, President Obama’s visit and the concert by the once-banned,… Read More »

“That’s What Google is For”

Over the last two weeks, this scenario has repeated itself a few times.  A junior consultant I am working with hits a simple roadblock and instead of reflecting on the problem and hunting out an answer, they pull the brakes and reply, “I don’t know how to do that.”  Hmm, I held my tongue for 3… Read More »