How to become top notch consultant

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Being at the top is always a mixture of skills, hard-work, knowledge and luck. The first two are within your control. The last one is a bit out of your control but you still can influence it. Below I will try to explain what you have to do in each and one of these areas.

Skills

Skills is what helps you interact with the world around you. In consulting quite often it is a hostile world.When it comes to skills you need to:

  1. Master major consulting techniques — that will help you work with customers and progress fast
  2. Master the main hard skills useful in consulting esp.: market research, analysis, structuring the problem, transforming ideas into working business models
  3. Develop soft skills esp. listening skills, communication (managing expectation of your boss, customer and team). In consulting you usually face hostile environment so you have to be very flexible to stay afloat. You will face a lot of tension within your team and with the customer. Only by being a fair likeable partner you can survive.

Hard work

When it comes to hard-work I would suggest trying to be lazy in a smart way 🙂 Some people tend to do 200% of what is required. If you follow this route you end up providing a lot of unwanted things and at the same time you are totally exhausted. Therefore, try to work smart and efficiently rather than long hours.

Only the most effective consultants survive to reach the top. You cannot beat other consultants by working harder as the standards are very high (10–15 hours a day / 7 days a weak) so your advanatage actually should come fromextreme efficiency and good selection of topics that you find worth handling. Overview of the most useful consulting productivity hacks you can find in this presentation or this course

Have also a look at what you have to master to be good at business analysis

Knowledge

There are tonnes of different techniques quite often with narrow application. Below my personal, not exhaustive, pick of useful techniques:

  1. Removing of bottlenecks / theory of constraints. Most of complex companies suffer from bottlenecks — things that limit you and beacuse of which you cannot do more. You have to know how to find them and remove them to make the whole system work smoothly. Recommending reading: The Goal, The Goal 2 — It’s not Luck. Have also a look at my videoexample of removing a bottleneck in content creation
  2. Lean manufacturing — this has been a strong trend in the last 50 years starting from Japan and thanks to automotive industry finidng its way to USA and Europe. Here the main point is to reduce waste on every possible stage and make high quality products, find any problems as soon as possible. By waste we mean waste of resources, time, making too much, moving too much etc. It has been successfully applied to office work as well. Recommending reading: The Gold Mine: A novel about Lean Turnaround, Learning to see
  3. Critical Chain. This is one of the most intresting technique that will help you drastically reduce the time needed for specific project and still do it within the orignal budget. The main conclusion of this technique isthat people are making too many things at the same time and work on buffers that are wasted on shuffling between tasks. Great approacha and you can make the difference with it. Recommending reading: Critical chain method
  4. Lean startup. This has little to do with the lean manufacturing. Here, you try to find out as fast as possible and using as little resources as possible to find out what people need and build a legitimate business aroun it. Recommending reading:Running Lean, Lean Analytics
  5. PERT, CPM — old but useful ways to manage tasks. Here you manage tasks having in mind their conectivness, limit resources, time need to perform it. In theory very nice, in practice difficult to implement.
  6. Industrial Organization — part of microeconomics theory that shows you the logic behind the behaviour of companies. Good understanding requires some math background. Recommending reading: Theory of Industrial Organization
  7. 6-sigma — bunch of tehchniques used to improve processes. Recommending reading: 6 sigma Revolution
  8. Canva model. Methodology where instead of writing lenghty strategy you try to simplify the business model of the company to a so called canva model consisting of 9 elements. Recommending reading:Business Model Generation, Running Lean
  9. Getting things done. Bunch of techniquest that helps you be efficient. The revolve around good definition of taks and effective execution.Recommending reading: Getting Things Done. Have also look at my short summary ot to-do list he is proposing
  10. Value chain and building competitive advantage. Sometimes you have to look at the whole industry and the so called value chain (the whole chain of industries leading from raw material to the customer) to set in a proper manner your priorities. This techniques shows you how to find out what you should do. This shows you how you should expand your business, what. Recommending reading: Competitive Advantage
  11. Consulting concepts like issue tree. Plenty of narrow, yet useful concepts that makes life much easier. Recommending reading:The McKinsey Mind

You can find a more advanced version of this anwer in a presentation on how to become world class analyst — entry level in consulting.

Luck

Luck is a funny thing. What you have to do is stuck the cards in your favour to make sure that you get on average more luck. This has a lot to do with choices you are making:

  1. Choose rather smaller than bigger consulting companies where you are closer to more advanced work and also the command chain is flatter — you can get faster to project manager position
  2. Make different projects in different branches. Avoid doing the same shit on an on. Go for the new challenging tasks that will force you to learn fast. You also get a lot of exposition by this way.
  3. Pick rather implementation projects than strategic ones. In consulting you do a lot bullshit project that nobody cares. They are interesting mental exercise that do not give you the flavour of real life and is not valued outside consulting. I would recommend that you try to go for implementation projects during which you can get your hands dirty. Interim position are always welcome.
  4. Occupy different positions. By taking different roles and positions you can learn much more and make good network 🙂

So master the rigth skills, get useful knowledge, work hard but smart andstuck the cards in your favour 🙂

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How to become top notch consultant?
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