Tag Archives: Consulting

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 »

McKinsey interview: Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is awesome. Too many reasons to mention, but a good thumbnail will be this 9 minute interview with McKinsey here. Yes, is not your typical person – her CV looks like the gold standard – Harvard, Harvard Business, McKinsey, chief of staff to the Treasury secretary, Google, then COO of… Read More »

Self-feedback: “How do you feel about your work?”

Self-feedback. I ask this of my team all the time. My favorite question to ask on team calls – to discuss analyses, client presentations, work product, or most of anything – is an open ended question. “What do you think? “”How do you like it? ” My thesis: If you don’t like your work, I likely won’t, and the client… Read More »

Consulting templates: Visualize what you want to say

PowerPoint. Over the last 20 years, there are very few days when I have not worked in PowerPoint. Sad, but true. Even when I am not creating one, I am often reading investor relations presentations or analyst reports. Pay attention to strong presentations. Collect them. See how authors structure data. Yesterday, I worked with my team on a… Read More »

270 blog posts later, how it turns out

Been blogging for 3 years and 6 months. Super enjoyed it. As I look back, over 270 blog posts, it’s interesting to see how things turned out. . . Candy Crush – Blogged about the addictive game and its profitable parent company – King Entertainment – here (8/8/15).  Looks like they are being acquired by Activision-Blizzard for $5.8 billion here… Read More »

McKinsey: 20% of CEO’s job can be outsourced

Routine work is going away. It always has been. Technology as old as the wheel, letter typeset, and the cotton gin have freed people from mundane and repetitive tasks. The market has a wonderful way of arbitraging work (thank you Adam Smith) to the least expensive person who can most reliably finish the job. That precisely is what leverage means.… Read More »

BCG: Atlas of Strategy Traps

Much more graphical. Take a look at Boston Consulting Group’s new website here – the design is more graphical, interactive, and actually. . . fun. Of the big 3 consulting firms, they are the first to step away from the standard menu-driven, list of solutions and industries. Their old website was very staid, but this is something… Read More »

Consultant’s or Mechanic’s Motto?

Saw this sign at the car mechanic. It covered an entire wall at the place where I changed the oil on my car. It was about 10 feet tall. Big talk on a big wall. If this the mechanic holds for himself, shouldn’t it be the minimum standard for us professionals – who are billing at $250-$500 an hour? Look… Read More »

McKinsey’s managing partner interview – failing to make partner twice

For those interested in management consulting – Dominic Barton is a name you will recognize – the managing partner at McKinsey & Company.  Basically the chief of the chief consulting firm.  This interview with him is a 1,500 word read, but worth it here by Knowledge@Wharton, the business school’s magazine. Stay humble and learn.  Barton’s first assignment… Read More »

What is accounts receivable (AR)? Consultants gotta get paid

Accounts receivable (AR) is what people owe you.  For anyone who has written an invoice or had difficulty getting a client to pay you for your work, you know how awkward and stressful it is wait for the money. Checking your email, mailbox and bank account to see in clients have paid their bills. Frustrating.… Read More »

Consulting tip: Ask good questions, publicly

Consultants ask great questions. Peter Drucker famously said, that “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”  BOOM. Today I was in a big corporate meeting of 60+ people. Big titles, regional heads, leaders of businesses. The purpose of the meeting was the educate, gain alignment on a new organization and rally… Read More »

What is return on equity (ROE)?

ROE (return on equity) is one of the key formulas that most MBAs (yes, including Marketers) remember learning on their path to financial literacy.  It is often the best FIRST place to start for financial statement analysis.  In simplest terms, it tells investors what kind of % return they are getting on their invested money.… Read More »

Accounting is not perfect; the good, the bad, and the ugly

Financial accounting is the language of business – no question. It’s how investors, managers, creditors, suppliers, and regulators keep track of the “score”. Without it, even the most basic questions like “how much profit did you make” would require hours of meetings, persuasion and probably significant disagreement. It would be like talking to someone without using verbs. It would work – eventually –… Read More »

Corporate marriage counseling

Organizations have trouble talking to themselves.  Ask any consultant and she will tell you that a good portion of her job is helping one part of their client organization talk to the other part.  Odd, I know.  For those not working with Fortune 500-size companies, you may assume that big companies communicate effectively.  Many times they don’t. Business… Read More »

The problem with metrics

Metrics are everywhere. As a consultant, we are in the business of quickly understanding business problems, proposing solutions, and measuring results. Metrics are a necessary evil of any project. The classic continuous improvement methodology DMAIC depends on M (measuring) and C (controlling the process).  Seemingly, Consulting is all about metrics and key performance indicators (KPI).… Read More »

What do consultants do?

It’s one person’s opinion, but here are 130 blog posts which I wrote over the last 3 years to describe my world-view of consulting. Hope you find it useful. Consultants are a strange breed. We span all industries, but ultimately we are in the business of helping executives make difficult decisions and implement change. It is a combination… Read More »

What is RACI?

This is a tool consultants use on any project which requires clear definition of roles and more communication on a new process.  When you have more than a handful of people involved, it’s very easy to get confused and make incorrect assumptions on who is doing what.  Confusion = frustration = lack of adoption = failure. RACI… Read More »

Big Design: McKinsey & Company buys Lunar

Design is popular.  It’s not surprising that McKinsey & Company bought a design company. Many consulting firms are branching out with acquisitions in areas which were once considered non-core. Deloitte has picked up a few digital agencies. Accenture bought Fjord, a design firm. Hell, even Capital One bought a design agency called Adaptive Path. Strategic design… Read More »

Consulting: Collaboration is over-rated

Okay, I said it.  I have seen too many organizations put together committees to drive “alignment”, when in actuality, they are trying to mollify a miscreant or hedge away the risk by legislating an answer.  Too often, it fails to achieve either of these goals.  The disgruntled just get more attention, and the middle-of-the-road answer is often the least… Read More »

Consulting: Idea fight club

I coined this phrase on my last project.  This is the simple admission that consultants should be confident in their ideas – backed up by data, research, and thinking – and be willing to allow their ideas to stand the testing of their peers, managers and clients. Ideas get stronger the more the are tested.… Read More »

Consulting manager: dictator mode vs. democracy mode

Increasingly, I have been using this simple, but stark, analogy to talk about team management.  Increasingly, seems like there are two ways to get outcomes. Democracy mode (what do you think?) Dictator mode (do what I say) As a manager, I want to get the most our of my people.  Get them focused on the goal, trust them… Read More »

Consulting humility: “I’ll go [get lunch], I am the cheapest person here”

When one of my consultants volunteered to go pick up food for the rest of the team, this made my day . . .because he understood consulting. It’s a combination of confidence and humility. Confidence in important things, humility is small things. Leverage.  This junior consultant, let’s call him Ted (pseudonym), implicitly understood how consulting firms make money.  We work on… Read More »

Accenture, “Digital Business Era: Stretch Your Boundaries”

Accenture had a good week.  Their stock hit a 16 year high, as they boosted their forecast for both revenues and profits.  Go A-C-N.   While looking for their quarterly investor presentation, I stumbled on something entirely more interesting. Digital Business Era: Stretch Your Boundaries here.  This report is thought-provoking and relevant to all management… Read More »

Careers after consulting

There is no better general business training than consulting. You work with super smart people, interact with clients daily, learn excel ninja skills, and get more valuable daily. It is a diaspora that gets spread across industries, geographies, and functions. Regardless where you are on the S-curve of your career – it will be a career… Read More »

Some rough manager days

I have not blogged in a month because of international travel, 3 concurrent projects, and honestly, some of the toughest manager days I have ever had.  Got some new folks, a fairly ambiguous project, and a lack of thinking.  Sad, but true.  A lack of real thinking. Here is an unfiltered list of the #%^# I said… Read More »

Accounting literate?

Consultants are not accountants.  Yes, there are a lot of consultants who work at the big 4 (Deloitte, E&Y, KPMG, PWC), but they are not accountants.  If you ask them to balance credits and debits on a ledger, they will look at you like a confused dog.  Yes, we took financial accounting.  Yes, we can read income… Read More »

Consultant, do you have 10,000 hours?

Malcolm Gladwell argues in Outliers here that you really don’t start to excel at something until you put in the requisite blood, sweat and tears . . . or 10,000 hours of focused energy. Yes, the Beatles were brilliant, but they also toiled at their craft in hundreds of small German bars in the early 1960s.  Without sacrifice,… Read More »

Consulting is an apprenticeship

Management consulting uses an apprenticeship model where the master coaches the apprentice on the skills and methods of the craft.  Same is true in law, accounting, other professional services.  Yes, I am sure that many consulting skills can be taught in books, through courses, or perhaps through trial-and-error.  I would argue that the real learning happens in-person,… Read More »

Year-end reviews

Performance reviews: In management consulting, there are performance reviews going on constantly.  No seriously. . .  constantly.  Consulting readers, please disagree. A review for every project.  A mid-year review.  A year-end review. To the optimist, this is an ideal scenario because there is near constant feedback To the pessimist, this is an onerous task for all those involved While… Read More »

Corporate lifecycles and Bain’s Founder’s Mentality

Founder’s Mentality. I was first introduced to the concept of company life-cycles in 1997.  Working for a US manufacturer overseas, our President hired a consultant by the name of Adizes to take us through a 2 day workshop to understand the potential growing pains our company would go through over the next 10 years.  A lot of… Read More »

Good consulting managers coach

I love coaching.  It is one of the most meaningful parts of this consulting job. Sometimes I am more focused on coaching the junior resources than the client. Probably not a good mindset, but that is the part of the job that I get excited about. I am not a certified coach.  No one pays… Read More »

Consulting proposals: 12 common mistakes

In consulting, writing proposals and statements of work are the lifeblood of the firm.  It is akin to fisherman throwing out nets, or farmers planting seeds.  If you are not putting together proposals and pitching potential clients, you are dead. I’ve been writing a lot of consulting proposals recently.  Generally, I like this because it sync… Read More »

Consulting is about people

Professional services is about people.  That should come as no surprise, of course. Clients pay our salary. There is no real “equipment” that we are operating. It’s just a lot of smart people, trusting each other, and working together. Simple. Yes, we do quick, smart research. Yes, we can whip bad data into meaningful analyses.… Read More »

Success = direction + smart people + trust

I know what success looks like. I have been consulting executives for the last 15 years – as an external management consultant, as a strategic planner, or as a organization design project lead. Spent a fair amount of time with CEO, COO, CFO, VP of this, and Executive Director of that. The majority of our clients have… Read More »

Why 14% of Harvard goes into Consulting

I recently read a 4,300 word article in the Harvard Crimson school newspaper that helps to explain why more than 14% of the Harvard graduating class goes into management consulting.  If you are interested in understanding the psyche of young top talent that goes from Harvard into the Big 3 or Big 4 consulting firms… Read More »

Feedback is a gift, get the most out of it

Feedback keeps you sharp.  All professionals should be thankful for authentic and well-meaning feedback. It’s a way to gauge our performance, impact, and influence. Good or bad feedback is useful, when it comes from someone we respect. Companies pay $millions to research what their customers are thinking, and yet, as consultants we often get feedback… Read More »

Discussion: Gender equality in consulting

Gender blind consulting? For any of us in management consulting, we are fairly blind to gender in the work place. You see men and women partners, principals, senior managers, managers, senior consultants, consultants, analysts, and interns. Yes, I do believe there are more women in administrative office-based roles, but for client delivery, it’s men and women everywhere.… Read More »

Competitive intelligence: 20 tips

When I was working overseas, I was on a competitive intelligence project. It might sound super-crafty, and Mission-Impossible, but it was not. It was actually quite boring.  Lots of meetings to share information, and try to piece together the competition’s strategy and tactics. Very ethical and process-driven initiative. Some tips on competitive intelligence. Linkedin resumes. People… Read More »

Saving the client $1,300 on Sunday

Tomorrow, we have 2 workshops, totaling 30 people. It amounts to 1,900 pages of color printing and binding. Since Fedex usually charges 69 cents per color printed page (retail), it comes out to approximately $1,300 in just printing. Cray, cray. Right thing to do.  I live 4 miles from one of my company’s offices, so I poured my coffee into… Read More »

Consultants are hired to be the bad guys

Sometimes the consultants are the bad guys: People hire consultants for many reasons, one of which, is to be the bad guys. Look at this article about how Deloitte is helping some of Iowa’s public universities cut costs here. Consultants usually stay behind the scenes. This is surprising in the sense that consulting firms like… Read More »

Direction, leadership, and trust

Tonight I told a client that I believe there are really only 3 things that distinguish high-performing organizations from losers.  Direction, leadership, and trust. Direction: Too many companies do not know what they are trying to achieve. They rest on their laurels from previous hit products. They acquire new companies. They mimic competitors. They optimize… Read More »

Data analysis in 20 minutes

Consultants are in the business of taking messy, unorganized data and turning it into information, and hopefully, some insights. Here is a simple example of excel clean up, and the steps to copy, paste, filter, sort, and cleanse data. For most consultants, the data cleansing would 7-10 minutes (takes some trial and error) and the graphics would be… Read More »