The Secrets of Consulting


Thurs, 12-2
205 South Hall

Spring, 2005


Mr. Larry Downes

311 South Hall

Office Hours: Thursdays, 3:00-5:00 PM or by Appointment

Off-campus Office Phone: (510) 526-9547

The Secrets of Consulting


Many receive advice, few profit by it.

- Pubilius Syrus, Maxim 149


Course Description

What is a consultant? One old joke that I remember from my early days as a consultant with what is now Accenture says that a consultant is someone who will borrow your watch to tell you what time it is. That seems as a good a starting point as any.

Many of you have had some experience in your earlier careers as consultants, whether as internal advisors, employees of a consultant firm or as contractors doing a variety of hourly or project-based work. Perhaps you have even come to SIMS with the hope of developing the kind of skills necessary to become or become a better consultant.

The purpose of this course is to help prepare each of you for the next stage of consulting. Recognizing that you begin at different levels of experience and have different goals and expectations of what you will be doing in the future, the course will focus on core skills every consultant—indeed, every professional—must continually work to improve. To the extent there will be a focus to the course, it will be at the industry level, specifically the information technology industries and the art of consulting as it applies in information systems and services.

We will spend each week working in groups on exercises, simulations, and role-playing activities aimed at identifying and improving your consulting skills.


Course Textbook

There will be no regular text for the course. I will hand out readings over the course of the semester that will highlight or explain the exercises. A few recommended books for those who want to explore more deeply include:

Grades and Assignments

Grades will be based on class participation, short exercises, and on the completion of a class “diary” (see below). Given the hands-on nature of this course, regular attendance is essential, as is a willingness to “perform” in front of the rest of the group.

The Consultant’s Diary

As the great physicist Niels Bohr once said, “If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.”

Here’s the first secret revealed: The most important skill for a consultant to master is the art of keeping track of important details. How do you know if a detail is important? You don’t—or in any case, you don’t know until after the fact. So in order to ensure you don’t miss the important details, it is essential to get into the habit of taking notes, of organizing notes, and of following-up on notes—of recording as many details as you can, in other words. And to do so on a timely basis.

Each week, students will be required, in addition to preparing the weekly exercises, to write two pages of observations about the material covered in class and how it reflects on their personal experience, either as a consultant or otherwise. Some weeks I might suggest what you write about in your diary; other weeks it will be up to you. You need not follow my suggestions, so long as you write your pages.

At the end of the course, I will review your diary, but you may blank out any material you feel is too personal or intimate. No one else will see what you write. The purpose of keeping the diary is to get into the habit of taking regular notes, reflecting on your experience, keeping track of unanswered questions and other details that may or may not prove important. (Benjamin Franklin “debriefed” this way at the end of every day of his life, a sure sign of a shrewd businessperson and politician, statesperson—in short, or a professional.)

I strongly suggest setting aside an hour a week, preferably the same hour each week, to do the diary exercise. It doesn’t matter what you write, just so long as you write something. Indeed, the less thought you give to what you are going to write beforehand the more useful the exercise will prove to be.


Each week will be devoted to working on a particular skill. Half the skills we will work on are of a general, personal variety; the other half are more specifically connected to the successful completion of a project.

Jan 20  Introduction – What is a Consultant?  Assignment #1
Jan 27 Being a Professional  Assignment #2
Feb 3 Drafting a Proposal  Assignment #3
Feb 10 The Contract and other Documents  Assignment #4
Feb 17 Effective Meetings (Held in Media Center in Moffitt Library)  Assignment #5
Feb 24 Managing Difficult People I  Assignment #6
Mar 3 Interviewing Skills
>Interview Role Play
 Assignment #7
Mar 10 Client Service/TQM  Assignment #8
Mar 17 Effective Presentations I  Assignment #9
Mar 31 Ethical Conduct  Assignment #10
Apr 7

Marketing Yourself
>Marketing Tips Summary
>General Resume Comments

 Assignment #11
Apr 14

Managing Difficult People II

 Assignment #12
Apr 21 Effective Presentations II  
Apr 28 Effective Presentations II cont.  
May 5

Beating the Value Curve &Running a Small Business
>Tax Tips