Comment on How to write a strategy deck… Bullshit, Prove It, So What | Laurie Dillon | September 8, 2012 | Social Wisdom: Digital Strategy Musings

@ldillonschalk In the IBM Consulting Group training circa 1993-1996, we learned issues based consulting methods, report preparation and negotiation skills, in the luxury of three weeks of onsite learning.

  • The issues based consulting centered on an issue as identified by the client, for which hypotheses were to be constructed, with key questions and check questions generated to prove or disprove the hypothesis.  The questions were typically answered through interviews, although data might be collected through the gathering of artifacts.  Data analysis would separate out facts, findings and conclusions, leading to a recommendation.  I believe that these methods were written by Kuczmarski & Associates, as Tom Kuczmarski would have brought the know-how of Booz Allen Hamilton’s approach with Robert M. Howe, who was general manager of IBM Consulting Group, also an alumnus of BAH.
  • The report preparation was designed with a slide presentation (full-sentence headlines at the top of each page, fonts absolutely no smaller than 14-point) in a series that was consistent with horizontal logic (a story readable from just the headlines on each page) and vertical logic (the body of each slide supported the headline of that page).  The slide preparation style aligned with Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle.
  • Negotiation skills were taught by instructors from the Harvard Negotiation Project, with Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury and Patton as a reference.

The issues based consulting was followed by separate two-week training in work product based methods.  The original two methods (by which consultants could be certified) were Business Transformation and IT Strategy and Planning.  These evolved into the IBM Global Services Method, and much of those original ideas have been open sourced into the Eclipse Process Framework.

As the number of consultants grew, the number of weeks of training were reduced.  In parallel, the ratio of management consultants to service delivery professionals went down.  In recent years, the training has been delivered online, rather than in person.

Finding the “so what”, as you write, is actually an art.  It’s better done in a team thinking through together, rather than individual as a guru.  Not having the common background in training (or working on engagements together) unfortunately leads to “cookbook consulting” with less thinking and creativity.

Laurie Dillon-Schalk originally wrote …

What I am demanding is that the research first consider the issues and form a hypothesis.  What are you trying to demonstrate?  This is fundamental to “issues based consulting” – something that I attended in IBM University in NYC.

After hypotheses are formulated, we collect data that may prove *or* disprove the hypothesis.  …

With issues, hypothesis and ‘facts’ (or I prefer to call them findings) – we can move to the ‘so what’ stage.  It sounds easier than it is – while doing social listening, you might go back & forth testing hypotheses three to four to five times.

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