On course for a short lesson in life-long learning.

On course for a short lesson in life-long learning.

IMC approved courses keep new consultants and old-hands up-to-date with the latest thinking. And, says Sarah Taylor, a few days of studying is the best way to hone your skills and sharpen up your competitive edge.

Whilst management consultancy is now the top career choice for graduates, the recent dramatic growth of the profession has also provided opportunities for more experienced individuals to transfer their management skills into consultancy. The Institute of Management Consultancy (IMC) has responded to the growing demand for consultancy skills training by extending its list of Approved Training Providers (ATPs) that offer a broad range of short courses, in-house and public, for those at all stages of their consultancy career. All ATPs undergo a quality assurance procedure which is reviewed annually and are visited regularly by an IMC representative. The approved courses count towards IMC continuing professional development (cpd) requirements and many cover skills expected of a Certified Management Consultant (CMC). Cameron-Shea Chapman and Company, a strategic and corporate affairs consultancy established 21 years ago, runs courses aimed at those with extensive skills but no appropriate consultancy experience. Delegates, often senior managers or directors, come from a wide range of backgrounds – from public utilities to food manufacturing and logistics. Director Diana Cameron-Shea, who has spent most of her career in consultatative practice explains, “Some of the people who take our courses do so as a result of redundancy or enforced early retirement. Often they’re still in shock, so the first thing we do is a self-audit to establish what skills they have and how they’ll transfer these into consultative work.” Cameron-Shea uses her own experience of redundancy, coupled with her clinical counselling training, to help delegates focus on the positive aspects of their experience. The three day programme, which is non-residential, is designed to help delegates to understand consultancy work and to learn how to attract clients. “The course gives them a lot to think about, particularly with regard to self-employment. Going home each evening and discussing the course with their families helps to keep their feet on the ground,” she explains. For those unable to attend courses the company also provides a distance learning package. Consultancy Skills Training (CST) is a virtual company established ten years ago by Calvert Markham. It works with three main types of consultancy: mainstream, internal and the new “emerging” practices, whose original business was not consultancy. The three-strong executive team coordinates a full programme of public and in-house courses using a network of associates and sub-contractors. Its Core Consultancy Skills is a three day residential course which provides new consultants with an overview of the consultancy process and the basic skills required. A detailed case study provides the “spinal cord” linking practical exercises for each stage in the project life-cycle, and role play is used to give delegates the chance to try out their newly acquired skills. “The course is very practical and packed with tips, tools and techniques. Delegates love the war stories and remember them for years to come,” says Markham. Geoff Reason, who runs the public courses, explains, “Rather than use professional trainers we use practising consultants to deliver the courses. This ensures that the content is not just theoretical. These guys are talking about what they do on a daily basis. You can’t get that out of a book!” CST also offers a range of advanced consultancy courses such as Analytical Tools and Techniques and Selling Consultancy Services. SpeakEasy Training specialises in helping business people to improve their spoken communication. Their Winning New Business course is aimed specifically at consultants and examines their relationship with clients. Managing director Cristina Stuart explains, “After knowledge of the sector and specialism, clients want ‘chemistry’ with their consultant. You can’t manufacture this, but consultants often allow their personality to get submerged in their desperation to win the business.” Stuart believes that management consultants need particular help with presentation skills and that it is not enough to simply demonstrate your professional expertise. “Those with a technical bias are particularly bad at relationship building. It’s not enough to just do a good job,” she says. The Personal Impact course is run in small groups and extensive use of video provides delegates with valuable feedback. “Consultants can appear arrogant, particularly the newly qualified ones. This has resulted in some bad press for the profession. Let’s face it, their clients can be very experienced and often old enough to be their parents. Consultants need to look at their use of language, for example they could say ‘we recommend’ rather than ‘you should do this’,” says Stuart. The company also offers individual coaching on conference speaking, which Stuart feels is a PR opportunity greatly under-used by consultancies. David Dryer, director of Phronesis Consulting Ltd, spends most of his time consulting on strategy and information systems, but also runs an in-house course on Consultancy Skills for his clients, most of which are medium-sized consultancies. Dryer explains, “It is a basic skills course aimed at mature recruits from a variety of backgrounds and covers the full cycle of a consulting project in two days, from the initial contact to implementation.” The course is customised for each client and can be used as a foundation or as consolidation. SECOR Consulting Limited has designated Dryer’s course a mandatory module in its training programme. Director of consulting David Parton comments, “The course offers our consultants at different levels of experience the opportunity to improve their consulting skills, and to put into practice what they have learned on customer assignments.” Dryer recently ran a “consultancy refresh” session for senior consultants in one practice. The objective was to update senior practitioners with current consultancy trends and specific topics which they had selected. Many practices manage networks of sole practitioners and some have used Phronesis to develop training programmes to cover the needs of these consultants. Techniques for Change runs a programme of Internal Consultancy Skills courses to meet the needs of this growing sector. Managing director Philip Albon comments, “The challenges faced by internal consultants can be quite different to those of external consultants. For example, they rely heavily on their internal sponsor for influence within the organisation. External consultants often have a board member as their client, simply because more money is at stake. Internal consultants do have a deeper knowledge of the organisation and its culture but they have to work hard to benchmark against the competition and to keep in touch with the market. It is also sometimes difficult to maintain their independence and objectivity.” Courses run by Techniques for Change help internal consultants address these challenges as well as teaching them to manage and implement change, market themselves internally and influence people within the organisation. They also meet the needs of those who don’t call themselves consultants but who are increasingly offering this service. The company also provides customised training and facilitation for Big Five practices and IT consultancies. As well as a full programme of short courses covering all aspects of management development, Roffey Park Management Institute offers Consultancy Skills for Organisational Change, which is a five day residential course for internal and external consultants. The course includes an introduction to consultancy, problem analysis, intervention styles and organisational change. Participants are given opportunities to carry out “live” consultancy assignments to test out the frameworks and models introduced. Programme director Julian Aviss explains the thinking behind the course. “To survive in an arena of downsizing, change, uncertainty and flexible work practices, many service providers have transformed themselves into consultants. Yet some fail to recognise that such a change involves a fundamental shift of attitude and ability,” he says. Aviss also feels that internal consultants face particular challenges that the course equips them to face. In order to maintain a competitive edge it is vital that consultants at all stages of their career take time out to develop new skills and polish up old ones. With such a comprehensive range of short courses now available there is no excuse for putting it off. For more information on IMC Approved Training Providers call 0800 31 80 30 or email paulb@imc.co.uk.

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