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Pushing Time June 3, 2012

Posted by Jason in Daily PM, Management.
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I’m a big fan of Alan Weiss.  Whether you are an actual consultant or simply someone who runs a business with customers, his advice can yield excellent results – though to be really successful, it needs to be applied somewhat ruthlessly.

Meetings are times when you will need to decide whether to make friends with the client and not make waves OR do the right thing.  Being a consultant is hard work.  You are already being injected into an organization, from the top, without much buy-in from the people with whom you must work on a daily basis.  On top of that, you must deconstruct the client’s workday into manageable parts and work on them in order of priority.  The problem?  Until the change is accepted and habitual, you are working in transition between the old and the new.

Unfortunately, even the most open-minded clients may perceive their existing workdays as unchangeable until proven otherwise.  This means that pointless meetings and sub-par time management will cause them to postpone meetings with the consultant – if for no other reason than the consultant is an “intrusion” on the existing schedule.

Don’t let it happen.

As Weiss might say, if you let the client postpone your meeting, you are training them that your time is less valuable than theirs.  And this is unacceptable if you are to be the client’s peer and partner in solving their problems – not just a subcontractor.  You must be up to the challenge of holding everyone to their commitments.  If you can’t keep your own promise to yourself to improve the client’s condition, how can you coach someone else to keep theirs?

For more of Alan’s monthly tips, click here.

Righteous Indignation June 21, 2010

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Whether you like it or not, your professional engineering career is specifically geared toward clients who likely do not understand the technical design process. You are, after all, the professional. It’s easy to develop the sense that were it not for your unique skills, your clients would surely not be able to accomplish their goals. But, as we’ve discussed before, engineering education and licensure are merely the price of admission. More experienced engineers (more…)

Avoiding Tunnel Vision February 22, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I just finished some light reading – supposedly non-business related – only to have a reinforced opinion that there are connections everywhere.  Granted, the book being non-fiction automatically puts it into the realm of being about real people – and what is business but dealing with real people?

The book itself might seem of little consequence to engineers, managers, or consultants.  “Paramedic: On The Front Lines of Medicine” by Peter Canning, an EMT from Connecticut, is about his years performing medicine “on the streets”.  In the early chapters, we learn a bit about what it takes to become a paramedic.  One of the most critical items is to avoid the “tunnel vision” that accompanies arriving on a scene with preconceived ideas about what you will find – regardless of how the incident was reported.

It should be abundantly obvious that this attitude is just as important in non-life threatening situations as well.  It comes down to the question of how well you have been trained to properly assess your client’s needs and act appropriately, regardless of why you got the phone call in the first place.

Maybe you have been asked to improve the client’s profitability.  He doesn’t know what the problem is, he just has general symptoms: not meeting goals, poor morale, and lack of new customers.  Do you jump in and recommend a new marketing campaign?  Round up the employees to discuss “change management”?  How could you possibly suggest a solution without taking some time to understand the operations and the root causes of these symptoms?

You can’t.

To do your job properly, you must assume very little.  It is safe to assume that the company craves profitability, just as the paramedic bases immediate care on oxygen and blood flow.  But beyond that, it requires an in-depth examination.  The problem?  Neither patient enjoys being examined.  But you’ve got to get the gloves on and get in there.

Don’t try to solve the wrong problem and do more harm.

Seeking Compensation July 11, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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It is common for service professionals to be sought out for advice “on the side”.  I regularly might provide some helpful insights into a particular situation, but any such advice is usually not worth much more than the recipient is paying for it.  The problem is that for someone to spend enough time on a particular problem to provide a truly helpful and customized answer fairly requires that they be compensated for it.

While it’s hard enough to broach the subject when your “client” is an informal acquaintance (perhaps someone you just met at a conference for instance), it’s all the more difficult when dealing with close friends.  Then there is the additional question of whether a bit of upfront pro bono work will lead to a longer term (and profitable) relationship.

A recent question came up in which an experienced professional was having trouble turning his expertise into a “going concern”.  He was experiencing a recurring case of providing some value to at least one other party (usually a larger corporation considering particular strategic decisions), but couldn’t figure out how to transition it into a paying job.  The following is a very loose summary of my advice: (more…)

Engineering Your Marketing July 2, 2009

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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One of the most important activities we can undertake is marketing our engineering services. But, what about the other way around: Can marketing be “engineered”? Marketing is simply the application of various tools to improve a business’s exposure to its clients and the public. Similarly, engineering is the application of various physical laws to the natural and built environment.

For those not long out of school, or otherwise sheltered from business management, the two disciplines could not seem more disconnected. Many may have learned the similarities the hard way—with the marketing equivalent of watching a bridge collapse. What would it take to synthesize engineering methods with the tools of the marketing trade? (more…)

Two Laws June 10, 2009

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Please read my latest guest blog at “How to Manage a Camel”:

http://projectcentric.co.uk/how_to_manage_a_camel/projectmanagement/guest-blogger-two-laws-you-must-know/