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January 17, 2005
You Can Still Get A Coke With Loose Talk, But You Need To Be Careful In The Management Consulting Business
Topic: 2) The Consulting Trade

Brian had the following post which covers the geographical differences of the use of the terms "Soda", "Coke", and "Pop". Thought it was a pretty striking graphical map of a social norm that I've never been able to put a finger on. In any case, it triggered me to write down a couple of brief thoughts about the importance of nomenclature, and more generally, clear communication in the field of management consulting.

On the one hand, in the early phases of a consulting engagement, there is usually a steep ramp-up curve to gain a common understanding of where detailed operations are at (even in cases where the consultant has experience directly in the client's vertical industry). I have sometimes referred to the ramp-up period as "drinking from the firehose." During this period, both the client and consultant use terms that may not be fully understood by one another. Regular dialogue and monitoring are needed to make sure things are on track.

Such early problems usually work themselves out. However, for all parties to ensure that the consultant is adding the highest amount value, it becomes more and more important as the engagement moves forward to get beyond nomenclature and to understand the vision of what needs to be achieved. As an example, when a client says, "No problem at all. I have that operational data," there is a difference between "having that data" and "having that data and proactively using the data to manage the business". Proactive management requires organizing data regularly, synthesizing new information from the data, developing hypotheses, setting goals, proactively applying controls on a day-to-day business based on the information (as opposed to treating data like exhuast eminated from an automobile), and making data and results transparent to all."

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 18, 2005 10:05 AM CST
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