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Self-Diagnostic to Improve the Management of Your Consulting Spend

Do you currently employ consultants on a regular basis? Perhaps you consider consultants a negligible part of your budget and overall business strategy—there for small, niche projects when you need them and gone as soon as that business is concluded. However, from our experience, consulting spend can represent millions of dollars for companies, and if not properly managed (or managed at all), you’ll miss out on the strategic opportunities a consultant can provide.

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Lean Banking Can Transform Your Institution. Don’t ignore it.

Let’s start with the great news – financial institutions that are leveraging Lean banking operations achieve up to 30% cost reduction within 2 years, and are maintaining cost-efficient operations better than the average in the industry.
Lean processes are being adopted globally by organizations prone to inefficiency that are negatively affecting their earnings.

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3 Essentials When You Present Your Proposal to the Client

Sweat trickled down Bernie’s neck.
He sat in the lobby with his briefcase balanced on his knees, panicking.
His meeting with the client was scheduled for 3pm. It was now 3.09 and no sign of the client. None of this waiting around was doing his nerves any good. The longer he waited, the more time he had to forget his practiced lines and get his thoughts jumbled.
Bernie was a top-notch consultant. His clients loved him. Whether it was improving processes, cutting costs, or finding efficiencies in already super-streamlined processes; Bernie worked magic on his clients’ businesses.
His firm held him out to their other employees as the bright light; the example that everyone else should follow. They proudly shared feedback they had received from customers about the projects Bernie had worked on. Not a year had passed where Bernie hadn’t been the recipient of a huge bonus.
People who had worked with Bernie knew he was good, but they also knew about his weakness.
Bernie was deathly scared of public speaking. When it came time to do presentations, Bernie went from hero to zero. And this was a big problem… Because, for Bernie to work his consulting magic, he first had to present the client with a proposal and convince them that he had some magic tricks to share.
That’s where Bernie found himself right now. Sweating up a storm in the lead up to a presentation to convince a client he was the confident, self-assured guy for the job. The thought of “being confident” brought the sweat in gushes.
At 3.14 the receptionist called his name. “Apologies for the wait, Mr. Jones. Mr. Grisham will see you now in room 3.”
Bernie’s heart rate shifted from “fast” to “gallop”. He picked up his things, dropped his briefcase, picked it up again, and then made his way to meeting room 3.
*
Unless he’s very lucky, Bernie’s presentation is going to be a tough one. Have you ever found yourself in Bernie’s position? Feeling as though if you could just get past the presentation part, everything else would be a breeze?
Next time you have a proposal presentation coming up, focus less on your anxiety about public speaking and your fear around making mistakes. Focus instead on the people you are speaking to and how you can help them. This will not only improve your presentation, it will also reduce your nerves.
If you want to get your next proposal accepted by the client, here are 3 essentials for your presentation:
1. Empathize with your listeners
When you have a presentation to do it can be tempting to just want to “get it done”. You rush through it as fast as possible because you know you’re going to feel more comfortable when you get to the end.
There’s a big problem with this approach. You’re focused on yourself, not your audience.
When you focus on yourself in a presentation– how you feel, who’s judging you, how embarrassing this is –the message of who you care about is transmitted loud and clear to your audience.
When the audience understands you don’t care about them, and that you’re just trying to “get it done”, they disengage from you and your message.
To keep the audience with you, to influence and persuade them, you need to empathize with them.
That means focus on them. Forget about how you feel and focus on how they feel.
In the lead up to, and during, your presentation, think about the audience. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. When you do this your presentation will be better received.
2. Clearly outline the benefits of your proposal
If you don’t tell the client what’s in it for them you give them no reason to listen to you.
You start out with their undivided attention, so don’t squander it by not showing them explicitly how their lives will be better.
Talk about the benefits of your proposal rather than the features.
Let’s look at a TV remote as an example.
Imagine you’re selling TV remotes, back when they were first introduced.
Selling on features sounds like, “This button changes the channel. This button switches the TV on and off. The infra-red beam has a range of 10 feet.”
Selling on benefits sounds like, “Now when you want to change channels you can do it while you sit in your comfortable sofa, enjoying your beer.“
Benefits beat features because you’re building an image in your customer’s mind about how their life is going to improve.
3. Contrast before and after
Another way to paint a clear picture for your client is to contrast before and after.
Outline for your client the problems that they are currently experiencing and then show them what they can expect once they have accepted your proposal.
In summary, when you empathize with your client, you show them how they can benefit from your proposal, and you contrast before and after you set the stage for a winning bid.

A new way to look at top consulting firms?

Attention executives: if you are considering outsourcing a project to a consulting firm, whether or not you have hired consultants before, we have great news—there’s a new way to view the value of the right consultant.
Did you know that executives who pay close attention, beginning with the procurement of the consultant through the completion of the project (including debriefing and follow-up), have a bonus waiting for them? It is that partnering with the right top consulting firm on a project offers unexpected key business lessons.
First, let’s look at what we mean by a “top consulting firm.”
You have heard the saying, “you can’t eat prestige.” Prestige has its place, but let’s face it: you can procure high-quality consulting services at a cost that fits into the budget of any enterprise. Creating a company budget crisis by opting for a global-brand consultant simply makes no practical sense. That consulting firm may offer one solution while putting a large enough dent in your budget, so that other projects suffer.
So where does that leave your consulting procurement? Actually in a better place! Here’s why.
A top consulting firm is one that has the skills and experience to meet your current project needs as well as complement your company’s culture and budget. The right firm may be a smaller boutique firm that specializes in just the type of project you have at hand, or a larger firm with the sub-specialty that you seek.
A top firm, then, has a track record of being in the right place for the right project, solid working relationships, flexibility, adaptable solutions, and great follow-up.
Happily, this leads us directly to lesson number one.

Source Consultants

Optimizing indirect costs is an evergreen topic. Many companies have already regrouped their indirect procurement to better manage expenses.

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Balancing resources.
You have made the decision to pivot to a consultant as a way to solve a problem and, at the same time, manage your overhead. Why then jeopardize that balancing act with a consultant out of your price range?
Instead, opt for a consulting services advisor with a depth of experience in matching enterprises with high-quality consulting services at the right price point. As an added bonus, your procurement team will save time, since a highly efficient advisor will have accessed, reviewed, and rated a broad range of consulting services for you in advance.
Implied in balancing resources, of course, is the idea of adequate resources. Before you choose a consultant, prepare thoroughly the scoping and the phasing of the project, and the necessary associated resources. You may realize that you don’t need the same resources for the different phases, and thus, decide to buy the phases separately. When you have chosen a consulting team, observe it during both the planning phase and the implementation phase of the project with a focus on balancing resources.
The planning phase is a strategic mapping session that identifies objectives, stakeholders, participants, and steps to success. Negotiating what constitutes adequate project resources (beyond procuring the consultant) is a key part of this phase.

Balancing resources in this phase often means applying some creativity in optimizing internal company resources at hand. Let’s say the consultant suggests that a person with a specific skill is needed for the project. Is there a person elsewhere in your company who has the right skill, perhaps from a prior workplace or career, and who is able to participate?
Now for implementation. Notice how the consulting team balances the utilization of people available to them on the project—and also within their own consulting team. That’s an example of project team leadership which manages to avoid burnout and staff turnover while getting the job done on time and within (a balanced) budget.
Notice, too, how the consultant encourages your team to share and conserve resources, and to be creative to resolve resource issues.
Marrying current knowledge plus experience
Lesson number two is about the value of taking a range of experiences and marrying them to the latest knowledge in the field.
Experience alone does not always optimize results. Do you want your child to be taught by a teacher who has taught for twenty years and who has “always done it this way”? Better to have a teacher with half the experience who stays current with the latest field-test results on pedagogical approaches.
Top consulting firms tend to have systems in place to ensure that team members share both knowledge and experiences.

They actively access—or contribute to—emerging thought leadership.

They debrief past projects internally (maintaining client confidentiality) to cull lessons.

Then they connect the dots from those experiences and ideas to your project.

Watch how your consultant draws on both her experience and her access to current intelligence in the field to fashion a solution that fits your needs perfectly. It looks something like this:
At a specific crossroad in the project, the consultant might say, Oh yes, I’ve seen this issue before. Company A handled it this way last year, but I just read where Company B solved it in a much more integrated way which would work well here, too.
Other examples will emerge as you debrief your consultant. It’s all about retaining knowledge, sharing it, and then connecting the dots to apply it appropriately.
Now it’s your turn: what is your takeaway lesson on marrying current knowledge and experience, and how will you apply that lesson across your enterprise?
The unforeseen significance of debriefing
Stifle that yawn.
Debriefing a project with a top consultant sometimes yields unforeseen golden nuggets if you know how to uncover them. For example:

Working on the project may have revealed talents among your employees that you had not been aware they possessed. Perhaps an employee’s leadership skills emerged.

Maybe a new way to reach potential customers or interface with current customers bubbled to the surface. How do you get that information to the marketing and sales teams?

Possibly the data provided to the project team also revealed tangential information that may be helpful to your company in another arena.

There is a simple way to ensure your access to these golden nuggets: insert into the consulting contract a paragraph requesting that the consultant document these types of data, even though they may be ancillary to the goals of the consulting project, and highlight them in her debriefing.
Working with a top consultant is an efficient way to meet your company’s current needs but it can offer a much richer value for the observant executive: new ways to think about balancing resources, marrying experience and ideas, and identifying new information during debriefings which, although ancillary to the specific project completed, may be significant to the company as a whole.
We now have reached bonus lesson number four:
Procuring the right consultant matters in more ways than it seemed before.
Competition among consulting teams currently is tighter than ever, but Consulting Quest has braved those choppy waters and stands ready to identify the perfect fit for your project and your company.

How to enjoy the value creation process

Welcome Professionals…
…as a top management consultant, we all want to create perfect results for our clients. But striving for perfectionism can actually constrain our value creation process.
For a long time in consulting business, I concentrated on achieving perfect results. At my former employer, we were especially great at pointing the attention to areas that were not perfect, yet. Each time when my project leader or partner or eventually the client found some flaws in my work, I used to beat myself up for that. I interpreted every necessary additional iteration loop as a defeat. I was striving for perfectionism.
Years later I was able to discover the drivers behind this behaviour and change my point of view. I recognized that it makes me very unhappy over time to strive for the perfect end product. The end product will never be perfect and if it was, I would already be busy with the next big thing. By having this tendency, it would be impossible for me to stop working and feel satisfied about it.
Today my motivation is different. I commit to delivering the best value I can in a given amount of time. I set time slots for me to work on a specific project and then do the best I can. I embrace opportunities for iteration, because it helps me improve my work. As an additional positive effect, it takes my client on a journey through my value creation process. Communicating intermediate steps and results makes my client value the work much more.
Everyday I try hard to concentrate on the value creation process! I am not attempting to create a perfect end product, but to give my best. Hopefully, that comes close in the end.

Safari in Consulting #1: CAUSA Consulting

Company Background
CAUSA is a small management consultancy specialized in strategic consultancy, sales enablement and communication. with offices in Berlin, Brussels and Wiesbaden, the company has extensive experience working with clients in commerce and politics on a European scale as well as on an international basis.

The company’s activities focused on innovative growth strategies and their analytical, structure and communication-oriented aspects. Having an international network with consultants in Brussels, Copenhagen and Washington D.C., as well as other partner organizations guarantees qualified support on the spot and an on-going exchange of experience.
The staffs have many years of experience in the public sector, as well as knowledge and competence acquired in private enterprise. The company’s clients include international and export-oriented SMEs, public institutions and listed companies.

Interview with Dr. Schössler, Managing Partner, Co-Founder

With decades of experiences working in both the public and the private sector, I developed the expertise in commercial, industrial and political consultancy. I founded CAUSA to better assist both sides with their growth and development initiatives.

Dr. Martin Schössler
CEO of Managing Partner, Co-Founder

Why did you found CAUSA and what were you driven by?

While working for The Economist Intelligence Unit (Martin was responsible for the Government and Financial Sector in Germany) I noticed that many clients wanted to go “beyond thought leadership” and not solely rely on whitepapers and studies. I was driven by the interest to establish a novel, hybrid business model in between the private and public sector where strategy consulting and outreach measures can be brought to the full effect for our clients. We also followed the request of our first client, SAP, to help them position one of their products for the public sector.

How does the company keep its niche positioning in the market and continuously generate values?

We need to constantly innovate. Over the years we have continuously progressed in our portfolio which includes now also digital assets and brand / platform development (for example https://www.luftfahrtistinnovation.de/ ) and we have also been of course challenged in a positive way by our clients which have quite complex tasks at hand, operate in a global context and need to keep track with the digital transformation. Very often, for instance when we won our first mandate from a top global Chinese IT company, we had to very quickly deliver results while still getting to know the finer cultural aspects which are quite important when you work so closely together. We spend a lot of time looking for the right people for our organization and we have started to focus more on C-level assignments and larger transformative projects where we support our clients for several years, including sparring and coaching elements.

What is the top piece of insight you have for the Safari in consulting readers -many of them are executives of companies and consultancies?

The business impact of government is often overlooked, yet the second most impactful element when it comes to business success. Executives should spend more time with government representatives and vice versa, the cultural divide is surprisingly large and growing due to the ongoing specialization in both sectors. The public sector is also a much more interesting and rewarding client when it comes to services and products that can be offered from the private sector in contrast to the public image. It is also able to provide an excellent context to large-scale implementation of new services and platforms, especially in IT which at this scale is simply not possible in the private sector. So at first i would suggest raising the level of interaction with public sector and government representatives, and second increase the effort to sell to the public sector – the reward will be substantial and also the learning when it comes to societal and foreign policy and security policy issues.

How do you see the future of CAUSA? What hopes/expectations do you have for the company?

We will further expand our portfolio to establish our own platform where we can deliver much improved law impact prognosis for our clients, organized in agenda streams, like automotive etc. This will be a separate business that we will launch in 2018, so we are happy to welcome the first beta testers from early summer. My aim is also to add more skilled partners at the company and expand our business to add mandates in the SME space. We will also expand our sales enablement platform where we have generated substantial new mandates which we will be able to announce in April.

Lastly, what advice do you have for students who are hoping to launch a career in Consulting?

Try to establish your own business before joining a larger firm or work / serve in a versatile field like government or even sports or the military. Also, in your studies, don´t stop at the Bachelor level and do a maximum of two – but meaningful – internships. Try to publish your ideas on how to improve specific items of public interest and engage in political debates early on to get an impression of the full societal spectrum. Also, everything you ever thought about as a kid is now possible as a job ,-)

For more information about the company, visit http://www.causa-c.de.
Are you a niche consulting firm that would like to be featured? Or do you know any interesting consulting firms we should reach out to? Let us know! Contact us at: info@consultingquest.com
For more specialist consulting firms, you can check out our Global Directory –with over 3000+ consulting firms around the world.

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The African Market Structure is still driven by the large Companies

Welcome to the fourth issue of our Blog Series -“Exploring the African Consulting Industry”. In this series, you will learn “everything-you-need-to-know” about the African Consulting market through a set of fun infographics. In the previous issue, we discussed that the Top Three Capabilities in the African consulting market are Strategy, Human Capital and Operations. The total number of capabilities covered on average is 2.5 and almost a quarter of the consulting firms is specialized in only one capability.
In this issue, we will take a look at the top Consulting industries the region and how they compare to those on a global scale.

The Industries
According to Consulting Quest’s research and data from the Global Directory, the Top Three Industries of the African Consulting market are 1) Financial Services; 2) Health & Life Sciences and 3) Energy & Environment. Interestingly, the consulting offering does not reflect the local needs, which are primarily rooted in Agriculture, Natural Resources and  Financial Services.
In addition, over 14% of the consulting firms in Africa are specialized in one industry, yet the total industries covered on average is 6.3. This finding is congruent with our previous observation that large global Consulting Firms are over-represented in the region compared to the rest of the world.
This post concludes our series on the African consulting market. In the next series, we will shift our focus to the Consulting market in Asia-Pacific and explore the unique consulting offering there. Stay tuned!

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Consulting Quest Global Directory

Consulting Quest Global Directory is the World’s Largest Professionally-Managed Directory in the Consulting Industry. Searchable by consultancy name or by region, capability or industry, it lists and describes more than 6000 consultancies worldwide, with links to their websites and social media channels. With such a powerful database, we decided to dig deeper into the directory and analyzed the consulting offering in each of the following regions of the world: North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacifics and LATAM.

The African Consulting Market is focused on Strategy and Human Capital

Welcome to the fourth issue of our New Blog Series – “Exploring the African Consulting Industry”. In this series, you will learn “everything-you-need-to-know” about the African Consulting market through a set of fun infographics.
In the previous issue, we discussed that Large Consulting Firms (with 1000+ employees) make up one-third of the consulting firms in Africa. Despite the strong presence of foreign companies in the region, 57% of the consulting firms are in fact only based in Africa, and almost half of the companies have less than 50 employees.
In this issue, we will take a look at the top capabilities of the Consulting Firms in the region and how the figure compares to that on a global scale.

The Capabilities
According to Consulting Quest’s research and data from the Global Directory, the Top Three Capabilities in the African consulting market are Strategy, Human Capital and Operations. Technology, being the most common capability among large companies (with 1000+ Employees), is the #4 biggest capability in the region, while it is only ranked #6 globally.
The total number of capabilities covered on average is 2.5. Interestingly, however, almost a quarter of the consulting firms in Africa is specialized in only one capability. Niche, local and small consulting firms are on the rise.
In the next issue we will dive into the Industries of the consulting offering and explain how the overall consulting offering is not reflecting yet the local needs.
 

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Consulting Quest Global Directory

Consulting Quest Global Directory is the World’s Largest Professionally-Managed Directory in the Consulting Industry. Searchable by consultancy name or by region, capability or industry, it lists and describes more than 6000 consultancies worldwide, with links to their websites and social media channels. With such a powerful database, we decided to dig deeper into the directory and analyzed the consulting offering in each of the following regions of the world: North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia-Pacifics and LATAM.

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Consulting Performance: Measure What is Measurable and Make Measurable What is Not

In God we trust; all others must bring data:
As consultants hammer home to their clients, the only way to prove that you are good is to bring the proof, the data. Paradoxically, however, they don’t apply that sound principle to their own shops. Management consulting has always been something of an informal business when it comes to measuring and proving its own impact.  Daniel McGinn, a senior editor of Harvard Business Review writing in the magazine’s September 2013 issue, described consulting as a “black box.” And because there is no widely accepted, objective methodology for measuring consulting, the management consulting firms that attempt to create measures are inventing their own recipe.
Most firms measure their performance through the volume of sales and re-sales per consultant. Partners thus are encouraged to bring in more revenue and conduct projects which, instead of fully meeting the client’s needs at the outset, lead to further projects without necessarily cultivating good long-term relationships with the clients.  And then there are the Attila-the-Hun type of consultants who pursue a scorched-earth policy, wringing as much revenue from the client as quickly as possible and then moving to the next target while being handsomely compensated for it. Some firms attempt a cross-partner evaluation, whereby a partner surveys a colleague’s clients to gauge their satisfaction.  The result is often a quid pro quo in which the evaluator returns a favorable report on the colleague’s performance in hopes of being included in the colleague’s next big project. In addition, many consulting firms are organized as partnerships, which encourages individualistic and short-term behavior that works against long-term relationships, specialized expertise, and team play.

Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not
Even though production in management consulting appears to be mostly intangible, there are still dimensions that can be measured based on the expectations of the clients.  Those dimensions include:
Commercial Approach. Was the client convinced by your proposal? Your pitch? Was your proposal in line with the client’s expectations?
Relationship. How well do your consultants do with the clients and their teams? What image do clients have of your company? Collegial? Honest? Trustworthy?
Expertise. How is your expertise perceived by the client? What were their expectations?
Delivery posture. How does the client perceive your posture? Are you available? Flexible?
Project Management. How did you perform on the traditional triad: scope, time, and cost?
Impact. What impact did you work have on your client’s organization in terms of savings, ROI, change, and the like?
Client satisfaction. Is the client satisfied overall with your company?

Measure your Performance

We all love apps that can help us be more organized, productive and enjoy some extra free time.

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But evaluation shouldn’t stop there.  You need to assess performance at the right degree of granularity. Evaluating the company performance as a whole won’t allow you to identify the partners’ blind spots and to surface best practices. And going down to the consultant level will be very hard to organize (and consequently very costly) in exchange for little in the way of extra value.
However, if you are evaluated using the same methodology used on similar firms offering the same range of services, then you can benchmark yourself internally and against the competition.  Such benchmarking is invaluable in terms of positioning and strategy.  All that is required is an independent organization that can conduct your evaluations.  Such independence provides the objectivity and the confidentiality needed to get candid feedback from your clients, a fair assessment of your partners, and an accurate comparison with your competitors.
To measure is to know
Once all of the relevant dimensions have been measured, you will have a wealth of inputs that your firm can use to:
Understand. One key element of the business is to understand your client expectations and whether your work met their needs.  Sometimes client expectations may be explicit, like a specific type of expertise.  Or they can be implicit expectations like trustworthiness, ethical behavior, or active listening on your part.  The ability to hone in on those expectations, both explicit and implicit, confers significant competitive advantage.
Strategize. Evaluation will give you greater insight into your strengths and weaknesses and help you evaluate the effectiveness of your value proposition and your strategy. You can also gauge your performance in each of the various segments you serve.
Learn. Identifying best practices and capitalizing on experience can spur innovation. Evaluation can also help you identify your partners’ blind spots and gain a better understanding of your firm’s ecosystem.
Improve. Assessment also provides a better understanding of how you perform in each of the different steps of your process: matching the right partner or team with the project, the proposal, delivery posture, project management, team composition, and impact. You then have the keys to improving on the dimensions important to your clients.
Manage. Knowing your clients’ specific needs enables you to continuously improve your performance, build better offerings and teams, and increase your success rate. But evaluation can also be a key tool for talent management, giving you valuable insights into your employees and enabling you to better manage their development and compensation in an industry where attracting and retaining talent is essential.
By changing nothing, nothing changes
Used wisely, performance evaluation can help you capitalize on strengths and mitigate weaknesses.  And it could be easier to implement than you think.
Why?
It doesn’t cost a thing.  The cost of evaluating a client engagement represents only a negligible percentage of the engagement’s revenue.
It’s already there. You are already evaluated by your client (informally), and your clients are familiar with evaluation processes.
Think ROI. Your return on investment is highly positive.
You can use an objective evaluation to build your reputation, enhance your credibility, strengthen your relationship with existing clients, and enlarge your portfolio.
In a nutshell, evaluating your performance will enable you to guarantee a certain level of performance, build loyalty, and improve your success rate.
So what are you waiting for?

Consulting Playbook: Creating and deploying an effective Company Culture

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #24
A leading European energy company (with a US division) constructing a nuclear enrichment facility in the US was presented with several challenges, including the lack of a cohesive leadership team.
With the facility being located in a small town, hiring, relocating and providing services was difficult.  Over the course of 18 months, the number of staff grew solidly from 6 to over 200 employees, plus more than 1,000 contractors.
To the whole team, this project was especially important. They had the opportunity to be involved in something new from the ground up and to utilize their rich professional experience. The staff boasted a mix of backgrounds (experience, geography, culture) which made coming to agreements difficult and the project went through changes in direction and priorities.
A prior operations manager created a divisive environment between those designing and constructing the facility and those that would operate it.  The priorities and values of people working on the project were coming into conflict and people questioned the decisions being taken.
The operations manager was replaced and a new chief nuclear officer did an excellent job in getting everyone on the same team and clarifying priorities and plans. The leadership team became a more cohesive unit and wanted to take time at one of their off-sites to work on improving how they worked together – particularly around team communications and decision-making.
In addition, the leadership team recognized that the company was at a critical point in its growth, they wanted to create a unifying culture with clear behavioral expectations of everyone involved in the project – both employees and contractors.  The company had a set of values that the US division needed to reinforce in their daily interactions and adapt to the current stage of the company’s growth.
Assisting the Leadership Team in Creating of an Effective Company Culture
The Consultant hired on the project, helped the executive team in the exploration of the personal styles of team members, and the creation of behavioral descriptors for the company’s culture.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was applied to better understand personal preferences for getting information and making decisions.  The executive team reviewed the conceptual aspects of MBTI and performed exercises to apply the theory. Team members worked on understanding how best to communicate with each other when their individual needs and preferences differed.  Gaps that could affect problem solving, potential for “group think” and potential for conflict, were identified.
The leadership team defined the culture they wanted to create that embodied the company’s values.  Research into the present cultural attributes was conducted and the results provided a baseline against which to evaluate desired changes.  The leadership put together a plan of action for communicating the cultural expectations to the entire team.
The Success Achieved
The team acquired a deeper understanding of the personal needs of the team members and their decision-making process. The potential for “group think” and for conflict was evaluated to pursue more effectively team goals, and resolve weaknesses, risks and conflicts.
As the employees and contractors were experiencing a set of different cultures, a new unifying vision of one common culture was crafted with behavioral examples to emulate and apply. This new vision would serve as guideline for the rest of the organization.

Additional Information

How to Better Communicating One Unifying Culture
Cultivating team work and a collaborative spirit is based on the idea that synergy is a superior level performance than separate individual approaches. Many people agree with that, so the challenge is mainly in putting forth the effort to create that synergistic state even though many organizations struggle to intertwine diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Here are few short cuts and proven ideas to create a unifying culture:

Clearly communicated expectations from the executive team to all team members. Processes and positions, timelines and steps are all defined. All are open to collaboration and inputs.
Values are identified, written and all members are familiar with them.
Friendly and respectful communication is to be followed all the time even when challenges, difficulties and issues arise.
Establish a fair system for teamwork to be rewarded and recognized. Compensation, bonuses, and rewards depend on collaborative practices as much as individual contribution and achievement.
Provide honest and consistent feedback. Be open to input from all team members.
Create opportunities for retreats, planning sessions, seminars and team building activities.
Plan fun activities – there are plenty of ways to do some fun stuff as a team, from sports events, games and competition, to parties and team dinners.
Celebrate team successes. People like to be acknowledged for their achievements and effort. Give rewards, certificates, even t-shirts and other gift items will go a long way.

For Further Reading –

Leadership, Coordination and Corporate Culture
Developing and Sustaining High-Performance Work Teams
Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams
The 16 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality Types

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About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

Consulting Playbook: Challenges in Implementing a New Business Model

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #3
When a new business model is designed, one of the top priorities in implementation of it would be the strategic client-centric approach. The importance of this is illustrated here below.
Establishing The New Business Model –
A Healthcare-Pharmaceutical organization with a dedicated Organization Transformation practice, and references with more than 2/3 of Healthcare global competitors, was facing incoherent changes as the standard go-to-market model in the pharmaceutical industry was no longer viable. The main agenda was to implement a new business model based on sustainable growth and innovation that would allow them to prevail over the “patent cliff”. In order for them to accelerate the change process, their new CEO asked for consulting support.
Key Organizational Changes Made –
The consultant worked tirelessly with the executive team to establish a shared strategic platform and identify key organizational changes to be made. An integrated Transformation Program was developed. Effective governance initiatives and metrics for major change were established. He also helped senior leadership align around key strategic dimensions, choices, and compromises. Cross-company departmental platforms (including go-to-market methodology) received the necessary support in standardization of all changes.
The Impact on the Business Included:

Consolidation of effort in aligning the executive team on the new strategies and plans of transformation
Transformation plan created to launch the change process
Supported the organization’s effort to become a fully customer-centric one (such as regional commercial teams, key account management, customer strategy, etc.)
Promoted further culture change through the Strategic Clarity frame of reference aimed to channel decision making by employees easier, and empower the client-facing staff with greater flexibility

Here you can create the content that will be used within the module.

Additional Information

Steps in Aligning an Organization and Its Business Model with a Modern Customer-Centric Strategy
Any sustainable business strategy today involves a modern and dynamic Client-centric approach. But how would we define the best practices in this field?
The Outside-In Approach –
Companies with a Customer-Centric Approach try to fully understand customer needs, problems and expectations. And as they do, they are prepared to provide customized solutions, often unique from their competitors addressing the customers’ needs.
Delegate More Rights to Employees at the Point of Interaction –
In order to quicker solve problems, whatever they might be, at the point of customer interaction, employees need the freedom and power to provide the best solutions as they deem appropriate. When they don’t have such freedom, and authority in a decision making process, the customer centric model effectively diminishes.
Highly Efficient Business Model –
Customer-Centric Organizations pride themselves on efficiency, speed and customer satisfaction. As they understand their customer interaction at any point of the lifetime value a customer represents, they can tailor their approach depending on various factors. A high value customer will enjoy more benefits, and a lower value customer would be attracted to become a higher value one, to get all the perks.
Cross-Company Transparency and Consistency –
An organization’s culture and vision is not an idea but a practical guide to be demonstrated at every point of customer’s interaction. Customers like to be served efficiently by knowledgeable and responsive staff, and they create a perception of a brand, as a whole rather than sections of it. Therefore, cross-company consistency, as well as transparency, are crucial.
For further reading:
– Putting Customers First: 5 Companies Reveal How They Do It
– The journey toward greater customer centricity
– Customer-centricity explained – what it means to be customer-centric

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About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

Is it better to work with familiar consultants?

When you have a new project, you might wonder whether you should return to the consultants you’ve used in the past or start over again with a new set of proposals. There are a number of factors to consider, with good reasons for doing either. Whether you work with someone you already have a relationship with, or you take a chance and start from scratch, there are some key questions and considerations to keep in mind.
Do you want a consultant who is familiar with your business and your style?
A consultant with whom you’ve worked in the past has already done the necessary research to understand your company. She will understand your values, your core beliefs, and the fundamental information that shapes your company. This means that she will already have a solid understanding of how all of those things will shape the project that you want done, which makes her more likely to be successful the first time. She also will have existing relationships with the members of your company, which will make working with them easier.

Source Consultants

If you’re looking for the right consultant, there are several factors that will help you decide whether a specialist or a generalist is right for your needs.

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Working with the same consultants on a regular basis will improve your ability to effectively communicate what you want from them. The individual relationship with each consultant isn’t cultivated overnight. In fact, you’ll start working on this relationship when you hire a consultant for the first time. If you like a consultant’s style, you can cultivate her into a fully informed and regular consultant for your business with a minimum of effort.
On the other hand, a consultant who is familiar with your business and your style won’t necessarily bring the fresh new ideas to the table that you’re looking for. After all, taking a chance on a different consultant will give you the opportunity to interact with someone new and benefit from the talent that she brings to the table.
What is the consultant’s area of expertise?
As with any other profession, there will be consultants who are more skilled in some areas than others. When you work closely with a consultant, you’ll learn quickly where her specific skills lie. Over time, you will learn when it’s best to call in a particular consultant who has the skills necessary for the task at hand and when it’s better to look to a different consultant.
You should always choose the consultant with the best skills for the job, rather than allowing yourself to stay with the old and familiar, simply to avoid needing to go through the proposal process.

A returning consultant will need less input from you, but a new consultant will be more likely to come back to you for feedback.
After the job has been outlined, a returning consultant will be able to get down to it. This means that your time is freed to deal with other issues, while the consultant takes care of the job that you hired her for. There might be less frequent communication as you hire the same consultant more often, which can be both good and bad.
As you develop a relationship with a consultant, you’ll learn what information she needs to work, without quite as much supervision.
On the other hand, this does mean that she is more likely to assume that she knows what you want, right up until the final product is handed over. If you’re not satisfied, it may mean that you have a delay while you wait to see the changes.
Is your business becoming too dependent on a particular consultant?
You don’t want to feel as though your business can’t function without the input of a familiar consultant, especially one who could become aware of that dependency. You always want to be able to enter into a new relationship with a new consultant if prices change or you start to see a decline in the quality of your consultant’s work.
New consultants offer new ideas and new skills.
You’re always looking for fresh new material, and bringing in new consultants is one of the best ways to get it. Your familiar consultants will bring their usual ideas and experience to the table, but a new consultant will have a different perspective to offer.
Ideally, you should always ask for a quote from at least a couple of different consultants before diving in with a single one. This will help ensure that you receive the best possible price. There’s a balance to be struck in knowing the right time to use familiar consultants and when to bring in new ones. Choosing the best option will ensures your company the greatest success.

Consulting Playbook: Pay attention to Integration when Preparing a merger of equals

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #14
Two major global mobility providers were merging and wanted to move fast but were not yet allowed to discuss directly for antitrust reasons. Any delay in the integration would delay the synergies, generate anxiety for the teams and could result in some customers moving away to a more stable situation.
What would the new organizational set-up be? What synergies would be expected? What should the new culture be? What was the best roadmap for the new company for the next 24 months? What team would effectively lead all the transition?
To ensure the success of the merger, and the consequent smooth launch of the new company a Consultant was hired. The main focus was placed on designing a program to include the following components:

Strategic Rationale for the Merger
Synergies Assessment (Cost and Revenues)
To be Organizational Set-up and Staffing
Post-Closing Implementation Plan
Support to the Launch

The Integration Program dealt with cultural issues, differences, and alignment of values, selection of methods and practices to achieve the desired outcomes.
Incorporating Every Level of the Organization is Crucial
The program of the merger was designed around the following axis:
Top Management Level

One-on-one weekly meetings with the two CEOs to discuss all aspects of alignment before the merger
Multinational Steering committee created which included 30 Top Executives of the two companies, had organized biweekly seminars to work on the integration process and involve key staff members
Project Management Office (PMO) to ensure the drumbeat, integration of all work streams and clean team process on confidential data

Vision

New Company’s Strategic Vision was developed for each function level (marketing, operations, innovation, etc.…)
New Operating Model was designed while integrating the cultural models of both companies

Work Stream Level – Focus on Collaboration and Execution

Roles and responsibilities have been assigned on specific work stream levels to all the top 30 Executives
Clean team process was applied, managed by the PMO with issues and deviations addressed
Synergy Cost and Revenue Targets set
Technical requirements have been identified for analysis, and decisions on key performance issues were made by the Steering Committee

Through Careful Planning and Design a Successful Integration is Achieved
The completion of the project included a detailed program architecture of the merger process, as well as outlined direction for the near future, in post-merger.
The program comprised clear perspective, visibility, well-defined deliverables, work streams, teams and timeframe of execution. The executives were introduced to the program early on, with flexibility allowed, and measures for adjustments accommodated too. Policy issues and Antitrust regulations were efficiently addressed. Two years later the integration is now a reality, the new company culture and operating system is in place and the new company is moving towards a bright future.

Additional Information

How to Avoid Mergers’ and Acquisitions’ Missteps
To anyone in business is clear that some mergers just don’t work despite all the effort. Of course the proponents of mergers will point out all the benefits and why they are worth the cost, but it’s wise to consider some of the reasons why mergers fail.
Very often initially it might sound simple to execute a merger, just merge the different departments, push suppliers for best offers, connect hardware, and electronic devices of the whole team, and you are done.
Then enjoy being a big fish in what would become a smaller pond, whatever your niche market would be.
But there are many risks and unforeseen circumstances, and things don’t go as planned.
About 65% of mergers lose value and fail to deliver on expectations in the stock market. One of the biggest factors affecting that outcome is that the economy of scale model, can prove unrealistic.
Few of the major reasons behind unsuccessful mergers can be summarized as follows:

Copycat thinking – executive team decides to follow the example of another successful merger, expecting the same results
An upside stock market promotes mergers, but that’s not enough of an incentive and not a well thought out strategy
A merger can be an image and a branding endeavor rather than a sound business decision
Fear of certain economic events can encourage mergers too. Globalization is one of those trends.
In the hype of the pending merger, top executives might shift their focus and neglect their core responsibilities creating serious issues for the success of the merger
Corporate culture of each company going into merger can also present an obstacle when it’s not thoroughly addressed, and proper integration not well-designed
Another big issue is when top executives focus extensively on cutting costs and less on increasing revenues and profits
But a good percentage of mergers are quite successful. And it all depends on the strategy of integrating two companies, founded on realistic expectations and meticulously executed daily operations with full involvement of executives and team members.

For Further Reading –
– Top issues for banking mergers & acquisitions in 2014
– 15 Key Trends and Issues for Hospital and Health System Transactions
– Trends and Issues in Renewable Energy Mergers and Acquisitions

t

About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

Leverage Management Consulting to boost the Performance of your Business

The world of consulting has been seen as out of reach for small to midsize businesses for far too long. In the past, only large corporations had the resources to find, vet, and pay for consultants, giving them a distinct competitive edge over smaller companies in their industry.
However, with advancements in technology and communication changing the way we all work, the consulting industry has suddenly opened up to businesses of all sizes and stages of development. Large players in search of growth pockets have turned to SMEs, while spin-offs focus on medium-sized businesses.
Companies and nonprofit organizations that would never have been able to find or afford the right consultants in the past, now have the opportunity to get world-class consulting services for an affordable price.

Use Consulting Strategically

Nothing says brilliant execution like a Request for Proposals (RFP) that sings to its potential suppliers or partners.
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Naturally, when new opportunities and tools become available, there’s a learning curve that goes along with that.
I was recently speaking with the CFO of a small business from the Food Manufacturing Industry. He confessed he had never used management consultants, and asked for some more information about what they could bring to the table.
So, how do you find the right consultant? How do you know if they can actually do what they say they can? What are the real benefits of using a consultant?
This is a very common conversation that we, at Consulting Quest, have with friends, colleagues, and clients every single day. So, we thought we’d answer some of the most common questions we hear and provide you with the “why,” “where,” and “how” of leveraging consultants to enhance your business’s performance.
Why
There’s a famous story of a manager in the Toyota corporation briefing an executive on how well the company is doing. Profits are up, customer satisfaction is up, production is up, sales are up, and costs are down. From the manager’s perspective, nothing could be better.
After the manager’s gleaming report on the state of the company, the executive asked: “where are the problems?” Shocked, the manager replied, “There are no problems.” The executive simply shook his head and said, “No problems is a problem.”

Sometimes, you can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar. Meaning, it can be hard to be unbiased and objective about your business, while also being emotionally and financially invested in the company.
Hiring a consultant allows your business to get objective, unbiased, third-party expertise that can not only offer solutions to problems you know exist, but also root out and solve problems that you didn’t even know you had. A consultant can act as a sparring partner, of sorts, who can bounce ideas back and forth with you and help you identify areas where you can improve.
Consultants also fill the skill and knowledge gaps that may exist in your current workforce, diagnose the problems in your organization others can miss, and help you get through special projects and periods of increased demand with ease. They can play the “bad guy” in tough situations where you’d prefer not to involve your regular staff, help you brand your business, or articulate and convey important messages. Essentially, a consultant can be there to support your business in whatever way necessary.
The role of a consultant is simple: help your business achieve a goal as effectively and efficiently as possible, while helping you, if necessary, with your management or shareholders in the process.
Where
The beauty of using consultants is that you can bring someone on board that has the exact expertise you need, at the exact moment you need it.
Because of this, consultants can be used in any area of your business that needs help or attention (or they can be used to locate which areas of your business need help and attention).
Consultants can be particularly useful in the top levels of organizations, when executives may be looking for guidance on strategic planning, resource allocation, culture, leadership development, or other areas that have widespread impact throughout the organization. In these kinds of situations, consultants can be seen as coaches or advisers that help businesses make big decisions and implement those decisions afterwards.
Similarly, consultants can be a great source of guidance during special projects or demands that your business’s core staff doesn’t have the experience or manpower to handle. These could be anything from ensuring compliance with new regulations, handling a special request from a top client, or deploying new technologies throughout your organization.
Consultants can also be assets to your company’s top line, helping to drive sales and profits through new strategies. For example, if you have a major marketing campaign on the horizon and want to be sure you have the best possible team assigned to the task, hiring a consultant may give you that additional competitive edge you need. With an outside perspective, a consultant can bring fresh ideas to the table that can increase marketing reach, improve audience engagement, and drive greater sales.
If inefficiency and soaring costs are plaguing your business, a consultant can come in to help you streamline those parts of your business. A consultant can provide expertise that allows them to better see areas within your business that could be made more efficient, or identify expenditures that could be reduced or eliminated altogether. Whether it be a breakdown in your production process, a lack of communication and cooperation between your team members, or a product or service that is eating away at your operating budget, a consultant will help you pinpoint, and then fix, those problem areas, in order to reduce costs and maximize efficiency.
Regardless of what your business’s needs are, the size of your organization, or the challenges that your face, there’s a consultant out there who can help.
How
So, you’re ready to get a consultant to come in and help you re-vamp your business. Now, where do you go to find the consultants, evaluate their skills and expertise, research their past performance, and negotiate their rates?
Those are great questions. In the past, you would have had to know someone who knew someone who used a consultant that could give you their contact information, or you had to put out a call for a consultant and hope that someone with the right skills responded.
However, in an age where you can look up reviews and shop online for anything from boats to goats, houses to airplanes, it only makes sense that you should be able to go online to find the right consultant for your needs.
Ultimately, justifying the hire of a new consultant can be difficult if you don’t know what exactly it is they can offer your business. But, with the right tools and the right people behind you, leveraging consultants to improve your business’s performance can be a seamless experience. Many companies have already dared to take the leap. Why not you?

Consulting Playbook: Reorganization and Change Management in Communications Department

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #25
A global Pharmaceutical company’s new CEO set about to transform the company and challenged the Communications function to deliver on a new set of expectations.  The function needed to build new capabilities as technology created new ways of communicating with key stakeholders.  At the same time, there was pressure to reduce costs, streamline many processes, and reorganize the department. Below we have outlined the actions taken.
The Selected Approach by the Consultant
A significant organization redesign was performed, whereby the consultant facilitated working sessions with the department’s management team to define new expectations, deliverables and capabilities.   Specific actions to reorganize the department, define new positions, support new leader on-boarding, engage the staff, and to establish new operating procedures were outlined too. This included coaching managers how to handle new challenges of the department’s transformation, creating project plans and communications to key stakeholders.
Several working sessions with key stakeholders to implement the department’s transformation took place, including:

A department-wide offsite to clarify new objectives and established specific plans and actions to achieve those objectives
Meetings with counterparts in the business divisions to clarify roles, responsibilities, and operating procedures
Meeting with the department’s management team to review progress and make course corrections

The Successful Outcome
The goals of reducing staff, hiring new talent, and reorganizing were achieved.  The new operating procedures were implemented and the efficiency/cycle time on key projects was improved. The new structures were put in place to effectively coordinate messaging throughout the enterprise and to establish communications strategies in support of key business priorities. Organizational layers were reduced, new hires brought needed capabilities, new skills were developed and dependence on outside consultants was reduced. The project’s outcome included lowered costs, better quality output, and greater efficiency in handling projects.

Additional Information

Best Principles in Developing and Applying Organizational Design
Having a great business strategy will not accomplish much unless your organization is properly designed to execute this strategy.
From shifting the organization’s focus, changing the business model, implementing new technology, reorganizing sales teams, marketing approach, or simply appointing a new CEO, companies need an efficient organizational design to operate and successfully meet their goals. The alternative would spell trouble.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best practices you can follow to align your organization with all the challenges and expectations it faces in today’s environment:

Every Company is Different – the best organizational design for each company will combine highly effective methods together with a unique fit to the organization’s status and priorities. As an executive, you need to take all that into consideration when devising the organization’s plan.
Organization’s Purpose is a Priority – As a true leader you need to start with the core mission of the company, and let all other functions and methods stem from that purpose, and support that purpose. What sets your company apart from competition is how you can deliver unique value to your prospects which undoubtedly follows the core strengths your organization possesses.
Get the Foundation Right – the main building blocks of your organization’s design include:

Basic elements: Information processing of knowledge and data, and IT utilization; structure, business processes, motivation, and performance.
Secondary elements: Mindsets of team members, their self-identity, commitment and dedication; Norms of operations – values, standards, behavior; Networks – effective communication, cooperation and shared goals.

Leverage Your Talent – People make the difference in every industry or professional field. Your team has special talents that will be unwise to misuse or overlook. A savvy and progressive executive will evaluate and optimize personal strengths of team members and offer them necessary support in areas where they do not excel. The best organization’s structure will emphasize people’s talents and minimize weaknesses where necessary.
Fine-Tune the Structure – with a clear vision where you like your organization to go, and having analyzed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (on a consistent basis), you can step back and look at the big picture. The best and most practical design will support your specific mission and vision, and will set you on the path of sustainable progress.

For Further Reading:

Organizational structure
What Is the Vision of an Organizational Structure of a Best-Practice Organization?
10 Guiding Principles Of Organization Design
Effective Organizational Design: Best Practices To Grow By

t

About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

Consulting Playbook: The Importance of Trust and Trustworthiness for a Successful Merger

The Consulting Playbook, Edition #4
Trust is understandably considered one of the building blocks in every successful team and organization. And the lack of trust will therefore present a major obstacle to most operations. In case of mergers, the issue becomes even more substantial and often challenging.
Overcoming Cultural Differences for a Smooth Merger –
When two large global mobility solutions providers merged, each organization had its own successful operating model. Their cultural values presented a concern to executives who thought the two might not get smoothly integrated and impede the merger. An in-depth analysis of the two operating models was conducted to identify strengths and weaknesses of each party. These findings built the foundation for developing new operating systems. All concerns were openly addressed to make sure differences would be resolved to facilitate the integration process.
Establishing a Productive Dialogue with All Parties –
In order to address each party’s points and criticism, and ensure the smoothest merger, the Consultant needed to complete a comparative analysis of each organization’s cultural DNA, their key management, values and behavioral characteristics.
Being an expert in the field, the Consultant developed a pre-defined interview protocol that included questions on activities, restrictions, rules and procedures, cultural norms, and the perceived pros and cons of the merger. The interviews were confidential, and proved to be extremely useful in conducting an alignment session for each Executive Committee. New operating models were discussed and shared with staff and management teams. The Consultant established a dedicated Steering Committee to determine: corporate center, centralization, control, new decision-making procedure, executive behavior, and responsibilities’ delegation.
The Impact on the Business Achieved the Following:

Resolution of many initial differences
Shared agreement about cultural gaps endorsed by both executive teams
The merger risks were sufficiently reduced throughout the remaining phases of the effort

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Additional Information

Trust concerns within an organization can arise for many reasons. As part of the overall organization’s culture, trust is the bond that connects departments, team members, leadership and employees. An organization with a high level of trust behaves in a trustworthy fashion, and merits the trust of all its employees and business partners alike.
How Do We Promote Trust?
Some of the most effective principles in building a culture of trust are:

Competence Trust – Allowing each team member to make their own decisions, express their opinions, and value their input
Contractual Trust – Consistency in keeping agreements, commitments and defining and delivering on expectations.
Communication Trust – Openly sharing information and providing constructive feedback

And What About Trustworthiness?
There are 4 Main Aspects to Look at When Trying to Define an Organization’s Trustworthiness:

Serving Clients – Focus and strive to best serve clients, not just aim at making money. Your employees should genuinely believe that this is your core purpose and share the same vision which goes beyond sales and profits.
Collaborative team environment – As an executive, don’t be tempted to just manage others. Many achievements are a product of a team play and effective collaboration.
Transparency – There is no trust if there are secrets. Avoid any hidden agendas, and practice openness to sustain trustworthiness.
Long-term Perspective – Building trust is all about consistency over a period of time. You need to deliver on your promise time and time again. Sales might be transactional, but you need to develop long-term relationships.

For further reading:
– Trusted to Lead: Trustworthiness and its Impact on Leadership
– The Enemies of Trust
– Trust Rules: The Most Important Secret About Trust

t

About The Consulting Playbook

The Consulting Playbook is a collection of posts designed to offer insights into how businesses and their executives can utilize consulting as a strategic lever to boost performance. Each Consulting Playbook post is broken down into a few elements: Case Study, Additional Information regarding the technical application, and Additional Links related to the topic.

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