..... what I have learned along the way:

 

I started consulting while in grad school, opening two small consulting practices with classmates. 

After grad school I worked for several consulting firms in Ottawa before taking a position with the planning department of the newly created Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton (now City of Ottawa).  After leaving RMOC, I returned to the private sector in various research and consulting positions.  

All in, I have been researching, writing and advising for over thirty-five years and learned seven lessons along the way:

 

  • Listen very closely to how clients describe their problem because many times they are actually describing a group of symptoms. The symptoms need relief but it is the problem that requires the cure. Salve the symptoms, but cure the problem.
     
  • Get all of the red herrings onto the table early so they can flop around in full daylight. Sufficiently exposed, red herrings will usually expire of their own accord.
     
  • A properly structured stakeholder engagement process will unlock creativity and accelerate implementation while a poorly designed engagement process runs the risk of being hijacked by mobilized advocates and the project being derailed. Establish clear rules of engagement before soliciting stakeholder input.
     
  • Identify which data and information will illuminate the bigger picture - then focus your energies on those.  There is no end of detail that might distract you - missing the forest for the trees is an ever present danger.  Your microscope will not help you navigate.
     
  • The tools and methods used for analyzing one area of practice will prove helpful across a broad spectrum of problem solving.  Bring all your tools to the job; the problem may reequire a non-standard solution. 
     
  • Have the project team date many solutions but commit to one.  You are more likely to get there if your team agrees on the destination.  
     
  • And finally, shape your presentations to focus on the essentials of what senior management requires to reach decisions.  Senior managers are action oriented, value clarity and many are allergic to minutiae.