Business problems are the same, don’t re-invent the wheel

By | March 7, 2014

Best practices: After 15+ years in Fortune 500 and management consulting life, I am convinced that business problems are similar. Yes, industries differ. Yes, companies are different. Yes, products are different. But many of the problems are the same:

Common problems include: Changing leadership. Office politics. Poor planning. Vapid corporate culture. Bloated bureaucracy. Unchanging distribution channels. Data overload. Product obsolescence. Lack of post-merger integration. Inadequate talent development. Miscommunication. Quarter-to-quarter short-term thinking. 

Consultants look for short cuts. Productivity is all about inputs and outputs. The more you can do with less time, less work, less heart-ache is called productivity. It can be a lazy man’s approach. It can be a bad habit, but we have all done it. There are many different ways this habit is expressed in consulting land:

  • “Don’t reinvent the wheel.”
  • “Use best practices.”
  • “Let’s find the subject matter expert on this topic.”
  • “What is the competition doing?”
  • “We need a point-of-view.”
  • “Who’s done this kind of project before?”

Tapping into the communal knowledge. Consulting firms have millions of hours of project know-how in the minds of its partners and senior managers. Much of that is codified in the project deliverables which logically and systematically tell the reader how to break down problems and come up with solutions. It is like looking for treasure while you have dozens, hundreds of treasure maps.  

Collect the treasure maps. All career consultants have their hard drives full of previous projects. It is like collecting baseball cards. The more and diverse the better. You never know when you will need a presentation on subjects are diverse as organizational design, outsourcing, IT best practices, pricing, and M&A. Here is a snap shot of some of the 500+ deliverables I have collected over the years. Nothing makes you more popular that sharing “choice” deliverables with friends in need.

Deliverables folder

Ralph Floss, the director of sales at the McGraw-Hill publishing company once said:

I am reminded of the man who was asked what plagiarism was. He said: “It is plagiarism when you take something out of a book and use it as your own. If you take it out of several books then it is research.”

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