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Why Consultants Should Be Accountable For Results, Not Recommendations

Why Consultants Should Be Accountable For Results, Not Recommendations

When I recently asked a group of MBA students to define what it meant to them to be a consultant, they quickly rattled off phrases such as “trusted advisor,” “problem-solver,” “objective third party,” and “subject matter expert.” What was interesting was that none of their definitions mentioned the word “results.” In other words, from their perspective, the consultant is not someone who actually produces results – but rather generates advice that someone else (the client) presumably turns into results.

As Clay Christensen and colleagues pointed out in the Harvard Business Review, the consulting industry is ripe for disruption. And this common ...


Good Managers Look Beyond Their “Usual Suspects”

Good Managers Look Beyond Their “Usual Suspects”

In the movie Casablanca, there’s a famous scene where Captain Renault, the head of the French police, avoids investigating the murder of a Nazi officer by telling his people to “round up the usual suspects.” The implication, of course, is that everyone should look busy and professional, even if the routine doesn’t really accomplish anything.

I’m always reminded of this line when I see managers respond to performance challenges by putting together a task force of the “usual suspects” to deal with the issue. These task force members usually end up with multiple specialty assignments piled on ...


Watch Out, Boomers, Here Comes the Millennial Workforce

Watch Out, Boomers, Here Comes the Millennial Workforce

I recently heard a stunning statistic: For the next 18 years, 10,000 people per day will turn 65 years old, and (presumably) retire shortly thereafter. While this graying of the Boomer generation certainly has implications for health care and social policy (and for me personally, as one of those eventual retirees), it may have even more significance for the nature of the workforce and the job of the manager.

First, there will be a shortage of workers for key jobs. This may sound hard to believe at a time when U.S. unemployment hovers around 7% and Europe is ...


Where You Sit At Work Determines What You See

Where You Sit At Work Determines What You See

Depending on how you look at the picture below, you’ll see the silhouette of two faces or a vase. It’s a classic illusion that psychologists use to demonstrate that all of us have biases that influence how we interpret events. To some extent we see what we unconsciously want to see.

_Copy of optical illusion image.png

Understanding this kind of perceptual distortion is crucial for getting things done in organizations. Most projects or processes require collaborative work with people who come from other parts of the organization – different functions, levels, locations, or business units – and who see the world differently. If you assume ...


Skip the “Best Practices”: How Several Hospitals Used Disciplined Experimentation to Make Complex Initiatives Successful

Skip the “Best Practices”: How Several Hospitals Used Disciplined Experimentation to Make Complex Initiatives Successful

As a consultant, I have the privilege of working with leading organizations in a variety of industries around the world. Despite the wide diversity in geography, size, and industry of our client base, I can confirm that there is one thing that every single organization has in common – each is unique. In fact, at some point in the first 15 minutes of every sales call I have made, the prospective client gave me some form of warning along the lines of, “You have to understand, things around here are different than in other organizations.” And of course they are right ...


When an Inability to Make Decisions Is Actually Fear of Conflict

When an Inability to Make Decisions Is Actually Fear of Conflict

When a company’s planning and decision-making process involves a lot of meetings, discussions, committees, PowerPoint decks, emails, and announcements, but very few hard-and-fast agreements, I call that “decision spin”. Decisions bounce around the company, from group to group, up and down the hierarchy and across the matrix, their details and consequences changing as different stakeholders weigh in. Often, the underlying problem isn’t an inability to make decisions – it’s a tendency to avoid conflict.

Decision spin doesn’t prevent decisions from being made altogether. But they often don’t stick, because people hesitate to express their disagreements during ...


Why Successful Companies Stop Growing

Why Successful Companies Stop Growing

We’ve all seen examples of unstoppable companies that suddenly hit the wall. Growth slows down, stock prices start to decline, shareholders get nervous, and the press starts to speculate that something is wrong. In some cases, like P&G and Starbucks, the board brings back a former CEO who can presumably return the firm to its previous glory. In other cases, like with Apple, GE, or Cisco, the board holds its breath and hopes that things will change.But the reality behind many of these cases is that periodic slowdowns are inevitable, even if the company is fundamentally solid ...


You Can’t Delegate Change Management

You Can’t Delegate Change Management

This post was co-authored by Rizwan Khan.

Many managers, even at the most senior levels, don’t fully appreciate the difference between announcing a major change initiative and actually making it happen. When senior leaders disappear after a big change announcement, and leave lower-level managers to execute it, they are missing in action. And it’s probably more common than most realize.

The announcement is the easy part; it makes the manager look bold and decisive. Implementation is more difficult, because no matter how good and compelling the data, there will always be active and passive resistance, rationalizations, debates, and ...


How to Turn a Problem Into an Opportunity

How to Turn a Problem Into an Opportunity

Managers have little choice about facing challenges, whether they come from competitors, economic conditions, or customer demands. However, they can choose whether they treat those challenges as problems or opportunities.

Here’s an example of two managers faced with the same challenge – one approached it as a problem to overcome, and the other, a possibility for reinvention:

Although in different industries, both managers’ firms count on the U.S. Federal government for a substantial portion of their business. This means that they both have to deal with the downturn in government spending. As background, the pressure to reduce deficits – along ...


How To Break Through Executive Isolation

How To Break Through Executive Isolation

A client of mine recently experienced a jarring moment akin to a scene straight out of the old Broadway musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” She was getting ready for a meeting with her CEO. After pulling together her materials, she was asked to review the agenda and presentation with her boss and one of the CEO’s staff advisors. During that prep meeting, the staff person strongly encouraged her to downplay or even eliminate any discussion of the newer, more innovative things she was working on – and not to ask the CEO for anything ...


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