Business skills are learned and utilized in every industry. Operations can be broken down to the basics of what is going on during any given hour of the day. People interact in the workplace based on their roles and rank. The key to successful transitioning of business consulting skill use to another industry is understanding how these basic premises can be applied across a spectrum of industries and settings.
Businesses operate based on norms.
As a general rule, businesses have policies and procedures. These define the workflows of the business. We need to know who does what task or performs what role, when they do those tasks or perform those roles, what tools they use and what information do they use or have as an outcome.
This provides us a general template, while a simple one, that can be used in any industry setting. For example, in hospitals one must identify what is happening to a patient from the time they walk into the medical setting to the time they walk out. Management must know who is seeing that patient, how are they interacting with them, what are they performing, and what are they doing with the information that has come out of the encounter with the patient. For example, a patient comes into a clinic, they check in with the front desk, a nurse brings them back to a room and asks medical questions of a clinical and historical nature, the physician sees the patient and confirms the information that the nurse provided as well as collecting their own information, and that information is put into a patient health record. This is one of the more simplistic healthcare examples.
Another example is the academic setting. A potential student applies for admission to the academic institution, they are evaluated by the institution for meeting of defined criteria for admittance, notified of acceptance, obtain financial aid thru a defined process, register for classes, attend classes, and complete the course for a grade which is then posted to an electronic portal for the student to access. All along the process different people are involved, such as an admissions officer, financial aid advisor, professor, and an information technology professional.
Monitoring and benchmarking
When management understands the workflows in their business they are better able to monitor and adjust business to be more efficient, effective and create a positive work environment. This enables the business to be more profitable, serve its clientele at a higher level of satisfaction and retain internal talent. Operation based on norms also provides industry specific and operational benchmarking. We can apply what the rest of the industry is doing or achieving to what we are doing or achieving. We can also learn how similar businesses operate, the quality of their operations and even the failures of their operations.
One of the most important aspects of business is relationship management. This can be broken down into skill sets that include what is termed “soft skills” and what I would term “bargaining”.
Soft skills are often defined as habits, attitudes, personal qualities, and social graces. I further define soft skills to include listening, understanding, clarifying and repeating. When interacting with an individual or a group, through methods such as one-on-one conversations, group meetings, or emails, we need to ensure that we are listening to what is being said.
Often, we must see past the emotion that may be present, good or bad, to what is actually being said. People usually have passion for their jobs and this comes out in the interactions. Getting past that emotion and not reacting immediately to it is of importance. After the listening we must come to an understanding of the core statement or issue is that is being communicated. An excellent way to ensure that you understand is to clarify or repeat. For example, “I believe that you are telling me that this product is not functioning as to your need of XYZ. Is this correct?”
Once you have confirmed that you have identified the core statement or need then you can work on a solution or options, which leads me to the “bargaining” skill. We cannot always meet the expectation of others and, in all fairness, we need to give options to meet the needs that are reasonable. Part of the delivery of the options includes exhibiting emotional understanding. Letting the person, or group, know that you understand the frustration or confusion (whatever the emotion might be) is key. You have acknowledged their passion. Then, in essence, to prove that you have listened and also acknowledged their emotion, you are now presenting viable options to address the need.
A term that I have recently become acquainted with is “executive functioning”. This includes the skills of memory, planning, reasoning, and problem solving. These are considered crucial to management success, as you might deduce from the term. These functions or skills also apply to the relationship management that I have outlined above.
Tying it all up
Utilizing the relationship management skills with operations management knowledge and experience as the foundation of any management consulting enables you to provide the client exceptional services. Regardless of the industry, understanding that all business operate with core workflows and being able to identify those workflows and the outliers is critical to assisting the client with managing and enhancing their business operations. Interacting with the client using soft skills ensures that you are forming collaborative and functional relationships.
What are your thought?