Tag Archives: Management consulting

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 »

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 »

Without trust, a diversity of opinion is an argument

I was on a strange call recently. The call lacked an agenda (bad sign), involved too many people (bad sign), and was a round-robin style of updating (bad sign). The leaders of the call were frittering at the edges, a bit nervous, fearful and entirely bureaucratic. Disorienting because I don’t know if the angst came from anger, jealousy,… 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 »

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 »

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 »

BCG: List of top 100 emerging market growth companies

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) just released a report called 2014 BCG Global Challengers here which lists the top 100 fast-growing and formidable companies from emerging markets. It’s their 6th study and argues these companies are not only growing, but reaching a new level of maturity. Jumping to the next S-curve. Fewer companies fell off the list, implying they are stronger and stable… Read More »

Consulting secret: stories and storytelling

This week I went out to dinner with team mates twice. On each night, I heard inspirational stories from my team mates – 1 personal and 1 professional – that really made me think deeply about how I am living my life. One story was about friendship; staying friends and keeping a beautiful tradition for… Read More »

Meeting minutes: 8 good reasons to write up those notes

Meeting minutes are not boring. Most people see this as a bureaucratic habit straight out of Mad Men, where Joan is typing notes at an old typewriter. I disagree 1. Notes show effort.  At the very minimum, it shows good follow-through and commitment.  While others are barely paying attention in the meeting, and promptly forgetting what was… Read More »

No more excel graphs, Tableau is the future

Tableau. Yes, this is french for Table.  It is also the most user-friendly, powerful, and amazing desktop visualization tool for consultants. Tableau is a company based out of Seattle Washington, founded in 2003 to commercialize work out of Stanford. Fast-forward 10 years, and it is a publicly traded company of 1,500+ employees, $232 million in revenue… Read More »

Consulting formula: think + write + communicate + revise

On a large project with so many moving parts, people, stakeholders, and organizational history that I sometimes get lost in the activities, status reports and project management mess. Stop. I need to come back to the basics of consulting. This post is written to myself, for myself. Gotta get back to basics: Think.  Clients pay us to think… Read More »

Consulting advice: Be, do, say

Be. Do. Say. I heard this for the first time 3 weeks ago. It resonated. In the overly-marketed world we live in, there is incessant advertising noise and not a lot of authenticity. Through the clutter, which brands and people can you really trust? Companies and products all purport to have the solution. They talk about unique selling propositions,… Read More »

Stop whining, consultants focus on options, not problems

I listened to a lot of whining this week. It was partly sad, partly frustrating. New consultants – unaware of what we really do – have a list of reasons why it is hard: I can’t get the data, so that’s why I am behind I sent an email; don’t know why they won’t answer ABC told… Read More »

Consulting fit: Ideal consultants are smart, aware, fun, and eager

I have been interviewing lots of consulting candidates recently. Beyond the resumes and case interviews, it comes down to fit. When I think about the most important characteristics of a consultant – or anyone I plan to work with – it gets narrowed down to these 4 words: smart, aware, fun, and eager.  As JM pointed out: S.A.F.E.… Read More »

Did you deliver value? Did you have a $10,000 day?

Consultants, lawyers, accountants bill for time. For good or bad, the traditional time and expense way of billing still prevails. This means that your time is valuable to you (as a professional) and to the client (as an expense). Every hour that you bill, the client pays out of their profits. Every dollar you bill hurts their… Read More »

Consulting advice: Help your clients save face

Save face. This is a simple concept that is critical for consultants and sales people to understand. Never put your client in a situation where you are directly and publicly disagreeing with them. Never box them into a corner where they might be ashamed of the situation. Never embarrass them. It’s a very Asian business culture… Read More »

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

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… Read More »