Consulting Approach to Problem Solving

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  • Problem Definition and Scoping
    • Problem definition may sound abstract or boring, but it's incredibly important to solve the RIGHT PROBLEM. Like a detective at a crime scene, a consultant needs to stay open-minded; think broadly about the problem and "look around" for obvious (and missing) clues. In practical terms, a clear problem statement helps the consulting manager keep the scope broad enough for flexibility and creativity, while narrow enough that the work can get done within the project time-frame.
  • Frameworks and Logical Structuring
    • Using the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle, the prior step of "problem definition" was looking at the picture on the box and defining the edges of the puzzle. This step of "problem break down" is sorting the puzzle pieces into different colors: red, yellow, blue, green. Different business frameworks help to simplify complex problems and identify the key drivers (e.g., 80/20 pareto principle). It also offers the opportunity to get early client feedback and form early hypotheses on what the answer(s) could be. Finally, it helps to organize the work so the team can divide up the work effectively.
  • Hypothesis-Based Consulting
    • Unless you are a scientist, the word "hypothesis" will likely seem a little strange. It's the idea that you are making an "educated guess" on what the solutions could be. It's a statement (not a question) that you work to prove through testing. How is this related to consulting? Consultants are often hired to solve the toughest problems in a short amount of time. The only way to accomplish that is by being smart and selective in what they do. This is the secret to how consultants successfully "crack the case" on their clients' problems.
  • Consultants Love Data
    • Yes, consultants LOVE data. It is the raw ingredients in the cooking of useful recommendations. Too often, the data is messy, biased, old, fragmented, or missing. As a result, one of the first tasks in a consulting project is to identify and collect usable data sets. It's an enormous task - often unglamorous - but also the only way you can test your hypotheses and develop recommendations. Data lends credibility to consultants' recommendations.
  • Data Request and Data Cleansing
    • Once you've identified the data you need, the journey has just begun. Using a cooking analogy, you've only put together the shopping list. You still need to get the ingredients, check for freshness, get enough, wash / peel / cut them before you can do the cooking. The same applies for data. It takes effort, client engagement, and some wisdom to request data efficiently.
  • Get the "Right Data" for the Project
    • There is too much data out there to analyze it all; you need to be selective. One way to do that is to follow a structured process or methodology. It doesn't have to be fancy or proprietary. It just needs to outline for yourself and the client, what you are going to do when. This project plan is at a high-level and helps you to reorient your efforts to the right data, right analysis, and right timing. The following DMAIC framework is used frequently in performance improvement projects.