Saturday, September 10, 2011
Thursday, February 4, 2010
As I recover from the rigours of the business school app process (no news yet, but I will update you once I know), I have begun putting together my thoughts on how the process has affected me. Its not finished yet, but in the meantime, find below some thoughts that recently coalesced while “mentoring” a junior colleague.
Talking to a colleague the other day, it struck me that one of they key things you need to learn in a consulting firm is that you need to be at least a little selfish to survive. As an incoming grad, its easy to kowtow to whatever everyone wants, especially when its partner doing the asking. “Need help with that? Sure, I am free”. Those words would escape my mouth all too frequently in my first couple of years. In the fullness of time however, I realized that no one was going to look after my time, or care about how many hours I worked, except me. So I started being a little selfish. If I was already working on something, and was asked to help out on something else, I was guarded in my reply, always checking I could fit it in without totally destroying my work life balance. Same was true on projects – I started out trying to work on everything, and now focus narrowly on my area.
I think the initial “everything to everyone” behaviour is common for consultants, perhaps as an artifact of how we are tossed, fresh from university, into a fast paced, high pressure work environment, and told that the only thing that matters is your work. The insecure overachiever type so common in consulting immediately interprets this as an order to do as much as possible, and hence the somewhat destructive work cycle of consulting begins.
If I have any advice for junior consultants, its this – think strategically about how much work you accept. Sometimes, for the good of your career, you have to accept doing work that takes you through the night and weekends (usually to build goodwill / relationships). Nine times out of ten, a politely worded “I am at capacity right now”, or “I am already doing two things for partner X”, will help you manage your workload. As I said above, no one is really looking out for your sanity except you – so keep an eye on it, and be selfish.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Sunday, November 8, 2009
So I have alluded to many times that I will blog about the difference between bankers and consultants. We all know that there is an age old rivalry between bankers and consultants, as typified in the hilarious and oft-cited video below.
Now, my AV skills were tapped out creating a 21st video for my bro so I won’t be dazzling you with my own musical today (legions of music appreciating fans heave a sigh of relief). Additionally, I find the process of writing b-school essays has sucked every last bit of my will to write extensively, so I am not going to offer you the comprehensive comparison you might be expecting. Instead, I thought I would focus on one question – What can consultants and bankers learn from each other?
So, in my limited experience, I think I have an answer to this question from both perspectives. From the consultants side, I think what we can learn is the concept of materiality. Bankers are concerned with money on the table, and they realise that small differences typically have little effect on the big picture. Consultants on the other hand care about literally every little thing. Bankers use the term materiality to denote a concept whereby they will focus only on the stuff that actually will really shift value. If you are reading closely this is of course an extension of the 80:20 rule – which is always on the tip of consultant’s tongues, but somehow goes out the window when your engagement manager is asking you to align boxes at 2am. If we focused only on appropriate levels of detail, our lives would much easier, without any reduction in client service.
From the banker’s side, I think they could stand to learn how to tell a story much better. For consultants, telling a story is at the heart of what we do. We gather facts, do analysis and make recommendations, but at the heart of what we do is taking the client on a journey such that by the end of the case, they are fully bought in to the result. See Steve Shu’s post on the topic for more detail. Bankers have the recommendation part down cold as you would expect, but from my experience they don’t do enough to get the client bought in – I think it would greatly improve the quality of some of their work.
Anyway there are my two cents. Anybody have thoughts on the topic?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
So after excessive time away, I am finally back to writing this blog. I wish I could tell you that in the last 2 months, I have finished all my essays and am ready to go with b-school apps - but that would be a lie. Its mainly been a combination of busy projects, and believe it or not an actual social life.
So today I thought I would pose the question - what makes a perfect engagement / job / project / case manager?
There are, in my view a couple of archetypes. Note the definition of archetype – these are extreme examples. Any evident bitterness is my own, and not referable to any one particular manager J
1) The Micro-Manager (MM)
This person loves the detail, and doesn’t trust their team. They want to know what is happening every hour of every day, and if you have a meeting, they want to be in it too. Only really good thing about the micro manager is that the poor worker can disengage their brain – they won’t be needing to be the excel / ppt monkey this manager desires
2) The Insecure Competitor (IC)
This person is really worried that his or her team is actually better at the consulting gig than they are. Typical motivations for this include a recent promotion, a recent failed attempt at promotion, or general lack of faith in their own abilities. The Insecure Competitor (IC) exhibits many traits of the Micro-Manager, but adds a veneer of competitiveness – the team shouldn’t bother to have ideas because the IC will always trump them, even when the replacement idea is worse. In meetings, the team can try get a word in edgeways, but the IC will inevitably be there first. The worst part is, the IC will always take credit for your work
3) Content Free, Hands Off (CHFO)
The CFHO is a great believer in laissez-faire economics, without really understanding the implications of said theory. He or she will let the poor consultant “manage their own work”. No help is offered, and in my opinion no value is delivered. No one really knows what the CFHO does with their time.
I think though that a really good consulting manager has to combine characteristics of all three archetypes – the content knowledge of the MM, the thought leadership of the IC, and the independence for the team of the CFHO.
To be fair, it’s a tough gig – there is a reason why the case manager level is widely known as the worst level in terms of rewards v work across many consulting firms.
Any thoughts on this? Does anyone have a different type in mind?