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Consulting Methodology Essay

Consultant Approach

Quickly understanding problems, gathering relevant data, and synthesizing insightful results

The Minto Pyramid Principle

A set of rules that helps create groups in a way that is logical and structured. Groups help you communicate easily to others. Process that identifies issues, designs research, analysis, and communication Way of sorting data to compartmentalize complex details and organize info Only effective if you have a clear idea of what the issue or question is. Ideas should be top-down, with lower levels supporting upper levels. Avoid more than 3 categories (hard to remember). Sub-ideas = grouped as well. Consulting Process and Context

Problem Definition

Key issues are developed using a Situation-Complication-Question (SCQ) analysis The key issue is the client’s most pressing need.  A situation statement is a non-controversial description of stable conditions. A complication statement is what altered the stable situation and created the problem. The key question is the question implicitly raised by the complication statements.

Step 1: Ask Probing Questions

Get to the essence of the issue. Ask “Why?” and look for effects that may be masquerading as causes. Causal relationships can be very difficult to decipher. Take note of body language and subtext. Find evidence and document all of the answers. Step 2: Sort and Group Info

Use the Pyramid Principle to join ideas. Start by grouping similar ideas. Then, summarize each group with a heading sentence. Sort each heading sentence into situation, complication, or question. Repeat these steps with all of the data.

Step 3: Determine Key Objective
There is only one key question.
From the SCQ, determine the key question. It should be the natural question that is a logical progression from each of the complications. The overarching issue

Framing the Key Question

Can be as important as determining the question itself
The form is dependent on what types of complications exist. Different frames will provide a different “lens” for the question. After determining the type, restate in a closed format; answered with YES or NO. Refrain from positioning one solution over another, unless complications explicitly require it. Make sure the question is broad enough (neither too specific nor too in-depth) to cover all of the relevant and related sub-questions

Issue Analysis

Uses the Minto Pyramid Principle, which structures idea. Issues Analysis structures the analysis of a problem using questions. Issues Analysis is used to structure the questions that must be addressed to answer the key question.

Step 1: Identify All Sub-Questions

What other information is required to answer the key question. Use the closed question format and be stated in a positive-yes format.

Step 2: Sort and Group Questions

Use the Pyramid Principle to help connect questions.

Step 3: Build the Issues Tree

Reflect what your brain has already done and the work you’ve already completed. To begin, put the key question at the top of the tree. Underneath the key question, write down each of the heading questions at the same level. For each of the heading questions, add sub-questions at the next level. No need to have more than four levels of questions.

Step 4: Test for MECE

* There are 2 qualifications. ME = Mutually Exclusive and means questions are not similar to each other. CE = Collectively Exhaustive means you have covered all important questions and is comprehensive.

Step 5: List Tasks for Getting Evidence

Identifying the tasks that need to be completed to answer the sub-questions. At the lowest level of each part of the Issues Tree, determine what needs to be done to answer the lowest level question. If all of the lowest level questions can be answered, the questions above can also be answered, since each question is in a closed, positive-yes format. This means that work does not need to be repeated or added later on in the process.

Work Plan

Way to keep track of multiple projects. Knowing the scope of the work can help define (or redefine) content. Help clarify whether there are issues to address. Makes it easy to assign work. F

our-step process: Rotate the Issues Tree

Rotate the Issues Tree 90 degrees counterclockwise with the key issue on the left and as you move to the right, questions will get more and more detailed. On the far right will be the list of activities and tasks.

Determine Resources Needed

Establish the duration of each task and what will be needed and then assign.

Align Work Plan with Resources

Create a high-level work plan including designate resources. Include the individual tasks, which people are assigned to each task, and how long each task will take to complete. There are three basic elements of a work plan that determine scope: activities or tasks, resources, and a timing or project schedule.

Define and Request Client Support

Revisit important issues with the client. It will become clear what additional resources are needed and why. Because each resource is linked to an activity, and each activity is tied to an explicit question, requests for more time, people, or information are very easy to validate.

Data Gathering and Analysis

Primary and Secondary Research

Equally important. Secondary is mining existing data. Important because it can be validated by multiple sources and supporting details. Beneficial because it uses different pieces of data to draw conclusions without emotional bias. Primary data gathered through interviews and is important because it includes nonverbal signals.

Interview Techniques

Not merely asking the right questions.

4 step process.

Plan Interview and Define Objectives
Important to know three things about finding the appropriate source for an interview: Who knows the answer to the questions? Who is willing to answer the questions? And who will be a credible source? Contact a large number of people. Call back if a subject is unavailable; it is more effective than leaving a message. Allow for additional time. Conduct background research on interviewees.

Prepare a Script

Execute the Interview
Introduction: introduce self and state the purpose of the interview.
Core: ask the questions you’ve prepared.
Closing: Thank the interviewee and allow for them to ask questions.
Record and Summarize
Findings and Recommendations Presentations
Convert the Issues Tree to an Outline
Replace Each Question with a Statement
Build the Presentation Slides

Each phrase that answers a question will be the top line of the slide and findings will take up the rest of the slide. At the end of the presentation slide, repeat the first slide of the key issue and heading questions with an answer to reiterate the primary message When to disclose the “answer”? Can provide answer at the beginning of the presentation so that the audience is immediately aware. Or hold the answer until the end so the conclusion seems inevitable. Answer at the beginning when the audience already understands the situation, agreement is likely, and the audience is impatient. Answer at the end when the audience is unfamiliar with the facts, the conclusions are controversial, and the audience is detail-oriented and story-motivated. Ensures agreement and make the conclusion viewed as objective and inevitable.

Framework and Tools

Client Profiling

Tool used to rapidly get up to speed with new clients. First step is understanding the client’s strategic direction, which is classified as either goals or objectives. Objectives are broad and describe general direction, are intangible, abstract, non-measurable. Goals are narrower and specific, concrete, tangible, measurable, with deadlines. Scope of the project is important in outlining what work your team will and won’t be expected to complete. To create the scope, you need to think carefully about what sorts of opportunities and threats the client is facing. Understand what the client is and isn’t willing to do. Business and Customers: start with examining the basic client business, the geographic area, financial status, recent news. Examine the value chain to analyze what the client does. Use the buying criteria to understand how customers interact with what the client is offering.

The buying criteria are a number of things about a product that impact if the customer will choose it. Anything that is essential in order to have customers is called a “must have”. If a feature is something that changes a customer’s mind is called “differentiating”. Features that are interesting but may not be willing to pay for are called “nice to have”. Marketing Mix: help determine the best combination of marketing for customer awareness and loyalty. Called The Four P’s: Product, Place, Promotion, Price. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Matrix: analyzes how product investment should be managed. Stars need added investment to maintain and can be potentially bring added profit. Question Marks may need more investment to succeed or should be divested. Dogs should be divested to invest in more profitable markets.

Cows make excellent margins and don’t need more investment. Sources of Competitive Advantage: 3 types: Scale advantage means being larger than most competitors and manifests when a company creates standard products and can come from different sources like cost leadership, efficiency, economies of scale, market share, etc. Differentiation advantage is when the company has a premium because of value that is created by products that are unique. Creates an industry environment or imperfect competition in favor of client (example: Apple). Unique Access advantage is when the company reaches customers that others can’t or has resources others don’t; leads to price premium and imperfect competition.

Macro and Industry Insight

Need to understand the environment the client is working in. Generate insight around which forces drive client behavior. PESTEL analysis: examines the macro forces and trends beyond the immediate competitive landscape. Quick reference for drivers. 5 Forces Analysis: Porter is an MECE way to approach any industry and provide a quick litmus test for attractiveness. 5 forces are: supplier power, buyer power, threat of substitutes, barriers to entry and competitive rivalry. Magnitude and direction of each force will indicate attractiveness. If buyer power is high the result for the firms is negative and the industry is less attractive.

If supplier power is high, the result for the firms is negative and the industry is less attractive. If competitive rivalry is high the result for each firm is negative and the industry is less attractive. If threat of substitutes is high, the result for each firm is negative and the industry is less attractive. If threat of new entrants is high (in other words, there are many barriers to entry) the force’s impact is dependent on what type of player the client is. If the client is an established player, having high barriers to entry is a positive force. If the client is a potential new entrant, high barriers to entry are negative and the industry is less attractive to enter, but more attractive to stay in. SWOT: only tool for examining a company directly.

Competitor Analysis

Usual and unusual competitors. Usual competitors are easy to recognize; they have a similar offering and/or target a similar market to serve the same needs. Unusual competitors are harder to find and come from lots of different sources; any competitor that is not usual.

Professional Behavior and Ethics

Maintaining Professionalism

The goal of being a Trusted Advisor is to do business ethically, lawfully and collaboratively through an unwavering dedication to the highest standards of professional conduct. The ability to behave professionally establishes credibility in the client’s eyes.

Exhibiting Interpersonal Skills

Establishing and Honoring Agreements

Successfully establishing and honoring agreements gives consultants integrity

Take Action

To integrate these skills into your daily routine, find a list of action items to start first thing on Monday morning. Practice sorting and grouping the elements of your daily e-mails, do an SCQ and issues analysis for a company you find interesting, and work hard to demonstrate integrity and credibility in any work that you do.

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