Tuckman: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

This is a classic framework that Professor Bruce Tuckman developed in the 1960s that describes how groups operate. It’s a linear process that all groups go through to some extent. Forming (people join the team), Storming (often there can be differences in work styles), Norming (group reaches agreement on goals, and mutual accountability), Performing (real… Read More »

Leadership quotations: Eisenhower, Roosevelt, Lincoln

This week I thought a lot about leadership and ran across these leadership quotations. . . What is leadership? “Leadership is influence” – John Maxwell “Motivation is the art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.”  – Dwight D. Eisenhower Is leadership inherited or learned?… Read More »

BCG Presentations: A Baker’s Dozen

What does good look like? All thoughtful business people are curious what good presentations look like. Here are a dozen+ presentations (freely and publicly available online) from Boston Consulting Group. These BCG decks may not be in your industry, or your function, but they show a lot of rigor, creativity, and lots of logical structuring. This… Read More »

Visual Capitalist: Great Infographics

Consultants are very visual people, because our clients are. Executives like to see complex ideas and data simplified, so it is easy to understand and act upon. Clients pay to see simplicity. Simplicity is difficult to do well. Infographics are fun. Honestly, this is not how management consultants typically convey data to $$ paying clients, but… Read More »

What is post-merger integration?

This 21 letter hyphenated-phrase generates $billions of management consulting work. With M&A booming the last few years, it’s no surprise that companies need lots of post-deal support. Whether a company hire outsiders to help or not, post-merger integration (PMI) is needed with every part of the business. Yes, every part – sales, marketing, finance, IT, HR, manufacturing… Read More »

What is the elephant chart?

Thought-provoking. I first read about the “elephant chart” in Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism (affiliate link), where the author explained how income inequality was a key factor in the global rise of protectionism and angry populism. Surprisingly, the middle class of rich OECD countries were the one who felt disenfranchised, left behind, and generally unloved.… Read More »

Focus on expertise and relationships

Wrote this blog post in 2013  (yes, when I was 10% younger). New comments in red color. Recently, I was reminded that there are three types of power in the workplace. While you might not have all 3 – you better have some. Positional, Relational, Expertise. I first heard this on a manager-tools.com podcast, but please let… Read More »

BCG: Nine trends shaping Tech M&A

The BCG 2017 M&A report has a great subtitle here (3Mb pdf) called the Technology Takeover.  BCG notes that 30% of 2016 M&A involved the acquisition of technology companies (no surprise), of which 70% were from outside the technology sector (surprise). In sum, every industry is rapidly acquiring, morphing, and becoming technology companies. BCG goes one step… Read More »

Are we less willing to listen to experts who disagree with our world view?

Yes, I think so, and that’s a bad sign. . . I saw this book at the library and was intrigued by the cryptic title: Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters (affiliate link), by Tom Nichols. I flipped through the book and landed on this high-powered statement: “The issue is… Read More »

Richard Thaler, Nudge, Nobel Prize

Richard Thaler, professor from University of Chicago, won the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Most people know him for writing the 2008 best-seller Nudge (affiliate link) with Cass Sunstein. Super enjoyed the book and was surprised to discover how many of our so called “decisions” are actually default choices, illusions, and… Read More »

Be likable, be yourself

This post is from 3 years ago, but more relevant than ever. Consultants are likable.  If you are not likable, uh, you have a problem. New comments in red color. Eager to hear your comments on this one. Being likable is a characteristic of all successful consultants. The more people “like” you, the more likely they will listen, interact, and be… Read More »

Business Books – Video Hacks

What business books have you read recently? When I ask this of friends and colleagues, I usually get this guilty look of someone who hasn’t read a book in year. Honestly, who has time to read? After 45 hours of billable work + 15 hours of non-billable work + 15 hours of travel time, who wants to read?… Read More »

“If you want something done, give it to someone busy.”

I find this to be incredibly true. People who are busy (and effective) can really cut through the clutter, and get the most important things done. They don’t try to do everything, they do what is critical-to-quality (CTQ). What needs to get done, gets done. A few characteristics of “these” people.  1) They qualify the… Read More »

Strong opinions, loosely held

Love this expression. I first heard this in a Tim Ferris interview of Marc Andreessen here (min 6:10). Andreessen created the Netscape Mosaic browser (making the internet easy to navigate), sold it to AOL for $2B, then spent last 15+ years investing and running a dozen+ companies. Crazy smart guy. Listen to what he says.… Read More »

Consultants are like physical trainers

Mondays 440am wake up. My wife and I have a love/hate relationship with Mondays and Wednesdays because they start with a 440am alarm. Massive coffee. 515am we are at the gym with a physical trainer. Planks, V-ups, Goblet squats, push-ups, dead-lifts, lunges, you get the idea. Yes, we love the feeling after the workout. You feel… Read More »

Career opportunity: Swing like Tarzan

Swing like Tarzan. A consulting partner gave me this advice (hat tip: AG) when I asked him how to navigate my consulting career. At the time, I was staffed on the same project for a while and did not want to get pigeon-holed. Wanted to be a consulting generalist and experience different clients, industries, and functions. Was… Read More »

Saying “yes” to clients can get you in trouble

It’s easy to say YES.  Perhaps too easy. When the client asks for something – new research, some ad-hoc analysis, an extra workshop – it usually seems like a reasonable request. After all, they pay the bills and shouldn’t they get the most out of their consultants? When the consultant says YES to a new… Read More »

Amy Trask: Cold call to internship to CEO, LA Raiders

In 1983, Amy Trask USC (So Cal) law student makes a cold-call to the LA Raiders looking for an internship. Dialogue goes like this: LA Raiders switchboard operator: “What’s an internship?”  Trask quickly replies “I work for you, and you don’t pay me.”  The response: “C’mon down.” After an internship in their legal department, she… Read More »

BMI: Bureaucracy Mass Index?

I first read this catchy acronym in the Harvard Business Review here. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but very easy to understand. Apt. Vivid. In the United States, we have a huge obesity problem, and frankly, the same thing exists in corporations. This is not restricted to this country or just to publicly-traded companies. Global. Non-profits. Governments.… Read More »

Swen Nater (UCLA): Train with the best

While reading Coach Wooden and Me (affiliate link), by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I ran across the story of Swen Nater, who was a first round NBA/ABA draft pick even though he never started, and only play 2 minutes on average per game while at UCLA. Deliberate Practice. Swen did not start out a natural. Apparently, Swen… Read More »

False equivalence: Washington Post vs. Washington Times

These two newspapers are not the same. Similar name, both based in Washington. That’s where the similarities end. You hear people quoting these interchangeably. Not good. Washington Post. Founded in 1877. Home of Woodward and Bernstein (Exposing Watergate). Circulation of 474,000+ (2013).  47 Pulitzer prizes. Washington Times. Founded in 1982 by the Unification Church. Circulation of 59,000+… Read More »

McKinsey Quarterly: The perils of bad strategy

Like anything valuable, good strategy is rare. Richard Rumelt, UCLA professor, outlines 4 common ways that companies often fool themselves into a bad strategy in a McKinsey Quarterly article here. Based on his book Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters (2011) (affiliate link). Bad strategy definitely exists. I would argue that that many organizational “strategies” are… Read More »

What is hypothesis-based consulting?

Yes, I know it sounds like jargon, but actually it’s part of the secret sauce of management consulting.  It’s more than educated guessing; this is how consultants smartly break down complex or ambiguous problems, and quickly start driving towards an answer. At its heart is the scientific method – used for hundreds of years by scientists and… Read More »

Career focus: Short and long-term

We do not do this. Instead, we often spend our career focus on the exact opposite – focused on the medium term. We focus on the next project, next promotion, next job. We want a faster return on investment (urgency, impatience, selfishness) rather than putting in the thoughtful work to get better at our craft. We obsess… Read More »

BCG: Digital Marketing Revolution Has Only Just Begun

It’s a provocative title, but BCG argues the case. Digital is more important than ever; it’s where people spend their attention and advertisers place their dollars. Money is abundant. Attention is in short supply. This digital conversation gives marketers a chance to micro-target and build relationships by testing/learning at scale. Instead of using marketing proxies, marketers can use… Read More »

Change Management: Head + Heart + Hand

After reading Switch (affiliate link) by the Heath brothers, I am convinced that successful consulting projects must appeal to the head, the heart and the hand. It’s a simple way to think about change management, but it also makes a lot of sense. We all want to create sustainable change. Head: The logic of the analysis… Read More »

HBR: Guidelines for authors (and consultants)

Great advice from the HBR editors. If you have ever thought (or dreamed) of writing for the Harvard Business Review, then you should read the guidelines from HBR here. As an educator, there are so many things to take away from this blurb on their website. Only 900 words, but well-written (no irony there) clear, and… Read More »

Jigsaw puzzle : Consulting?

It rained last Sunday in Atlanta. Spent a few hours working on a jigsaw puzzle in the kitchen while drinking coffee and eating chocolate. The good life. Get a good puzzle.  Sometimes, you want to do something mindless besides binge-watching Netflix. Yes, yard work is good. A 4 mile run is good. So are old-school, jigsaw puzzles. Easy ones. Attractive… Read More »

FT called consulting a curse. Seriously?

The Financial Times wrote a short scathing article on the management consulting industry here. Some valid points, but clearly a quickly assembled article with a Warren Buffett quote and visual used as a wrapper. If you are going to argue that a $133 billion industry is a “curse”, do a good job. Calling consulting a curse is 1) odd… Read More »

Get staffed: Don’t become consultant inventory

Everyone understands inventory. It’s the stuff sitting on Home Depot’s shelves. It’s the frozen pizzas in the freezer. The unsold house in the neighborhood. The empty hotel rooms and empty movie seats. Non-billable consultants are no different. Non-billable consultants should either be selling new projects, or they are inventory. It’s complex. Inventory can be tricky… Read More »

Drucker, “The question that faces the strategic decision maker. . .”

“The question that faces the strategic decision maker is not ‘what his organization should do tomorrow.’ It is, ‘what do we have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow’?” — Peter Drucker  This quote is right-on. Without writing a New Yorker-length article, 6 things: 1) Question. Leaders are in the “ask the right question”… Read More »

30+ McKinsey presentations

Curious what a McKinsey presentation looks like? Please find links to 30+ McKinsey presentations which are publicly available online. Many of these are from conferences, or governmental / non-profit organizations clients who have chosen to make them available online. Yes, Google is useful. I selected the ones which as less than 10 years old have more than… Read More »

Best practice: A tool or a crutch?

I wrote this post 5 years ago.  It is still true today.  Management consultants use the phrase “best practice” often.  Perhaps too often. You will see that magical phrase mentioned numerous times in white papers and research on these websites: Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, PWC and Accenture.  A few pictures that help explain why a best practice can be so… Read More »

Important, not urgent

Generally speaking, I am pretty good under pressure. This can take the form of final revisions the night before the presentation, or conference calls lined up back-to-back. The endorphin gets going and you can ignore the pain. The dopamine gets going and you feel the achievement. If it’s team-based work, the serotonin gets going and it feels like… Read More »

Anti-example: 10 bad charts

Consultants are in the business of taking ambiguous problems, structuring them, and telling cogent, actionable stories. This often involves charts – yes – charts and graphs. The older crew – like me – is used to Excel, but you will also see Tableau, Cliq, and other Prezi-like craziness. First and foremost, the content needs to be relevant and accurate. Then, it… Read More »

Word choice

Clearly, eloquence has many parts – content, structure, conviction, tone, pacing, empathy, and word choice. Ah, words. Let’s not forget the words. Word inflation. Seems like we are bombarded with words constantly – most of them advertising or loose “pseudo-news”. The endless stream of facebook / linkedin “forwards” and “likes”.  So many words for such limited and often… Read More »