Critical thinking is the use of careful analysis to make informed decisions. This highly valued soft skill will help you solve problems and reach goals. You must be able to think critically at work, in school and in everyday life.
Critical thinking involves first identifying the problem you want to solve or the goal you want to reach. Then you will have to gather information that will help you identify workable solutions.
Next you will begin to evaluate these solutions by comparing and contrasting them. This will help you determine which alternative is most likely to help you solve your problem or reach your goal most effectively and efficiently. You should note that not all problems can be solved and not all goals achieved, but critical thinking will help you make your best effort, and it will also allow you to conclude that there isn’t an effective solution.
Tips to Help You Develop This Skill
With time as scarce as it usually is, taking a slow and measured approach to decision making and problem solving seems almost impossible. We tend to want quick and easy answers rather than thoughtful responses. We are trained to make decisions and solve problems quickly before moving on to the next thing on our to do lists. It is important, however, to reverse that course of action. From now on you must learn how to be a critical thinker.
There are things you can do that will help you develop this skill.
If you are a student, sign up for classes that force you to think critically. The first subject that may come to mind is science because you must test hypotheses before coming to a conclusion. There are other options. Take an art class for example.
When you are assigned a project, you will have to choose between different media and techniques to see which will best let you achieve your artistic vision. Join a debate club. You will have to examine an issue, adopt a stance on it and then argue your point.
If you aren’t in school, you are not out of luck. You can practice your critical thinking skills during everyday life. Before forming an opinion about a political or any other issue, take time to learn about the different sides of it. When deciding where to have dinner, weigh your alternatives in terms of type of food, healthfulness and cost. When you are making a purchase, read reviews before deciding what brand to buy.
Although good critical thinking skills are useful in most workplaces, some occupations require workers to be stronger in this skill than other careers do. Here is a look at some of them:
- Judge: Judges presides over criminal and civil legal cases, making sure they are handled fairly.
- Attorneys: Attorneys represent people who are involved in civil and criminal legal cases.
- Actuary: Actuaries estimate the probability of certain events occurring and assess how much it will cost their employers or clients if they do.
- Doctors: Doctors examine patients in order to diagnose and then treat illnesses and injuries.
- Operations Research Analyst: Operation research analysts solve problems for companies and organizations using their knowledge of mathematics.
- Principal: Principals manage everything that goes on inside school buildings. They establish educational goals and make sure their faculty meets them.
- Biomedical Engineer: Biomedical engineers first analyze and then solve problems having to do with biology and medicine.
- Biochemist or Biophysicist: Biochemists study the chemical composition of living things. Biophysicists investigate how electrical and mechanical energy relates to living cells and organisms.
- Medical Scientist: Medical scientists research the causes of diseases to find ways to treat and prevent them.
- Financial Examiner: Financial examiners make sure banks and other financial institutions adhere to government laws and regulations.
- Engineer: Engineers use their scientific and mathematical expertise to solve problems.
- Physician Assistant: Physician assistants, under doctors’ supervision, examine and treat patients.
- Dentist: Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth and mouth tissue.
- Special Agents: Special agents collect information to determine if state, local or federal laws have been violated.
- Geoscientists: Geoscientists study physical aspects of the earth and may search for natural resources.
- Clinical or Counseling Psychologist: Clinical and counseling psychologists assess patients for mental, emotional and behavioral disorders and then treat them.
- Anthropologist: Anthropologists study the origin, development and behavior of human beings.
- Optometrist: Optometrists diagnose and treat eye diseases and disorders.
- Audiologist: Audiologists diagnose hearing difficulties and balance disorders.
- Archaeologist: Archaeologists excavate and analyze artifacts left behind by earlier civilizations.
- Chemist: Chemists use knowledge about chemicals to create products that improve our lives.
- Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists help patients recover their ability to perform daily living and work activities.
- Pilot: Pilots fly planes and helicopters for airlines that transport people and cargo on a fixed schedule or companies that offer charter flights, rescue operations or aerial photography.
- Dietitian or Nutritionist: Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise the preparation and serving of meals, and promote healthy eating habits.
- EMT or Paramedic: EMTs and paramedics treat ill or injured people who need immediate care.
- Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists provide therapy to families, couples and individuals. They work from the perspective that those with whom we live have an impact on our mental health.
- Health Educator: Health educators teach individuals and communities how to live healthy lifestyles.
- Computer and Information Systems Manager: Computer and information systems managers coordinate companies’ and other organizations’ computer-related activities.
- Financial Advisor: Financial advisors help clients plan for their financial goals.
- Physical Therapist: Physical therapists help rehabilitate people who were injured in accidents or who have disabling conditions.
- Fashion Designer: Fashion designers create clothing and accessories.
- Marketing Manager: Marketing managers formulate companies’ marketing strategies.
- Pharmacist: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and provide them with information about how to use them.
- Human Resources Specialist: Human resources specialists finds job candidates who are most likely to meet their employers’ needs.
- Urban or Regional Planner: Urban and regional planners help communities figure out how to best use their land and resources.
- Survey Researcher: Survey researchers design surveys that are used to collect data about people.
- Assessor: Assessors determine the values of multiple properties for cities, counties and other municipalities.
- Forensic Scientist: Forensic scientists gather and analyze physical evidence from crime scenes.
- Desktop Publisher: Desktop publishers produce publication-ready materials using computer software.
- Event Planner: Event planners coordinate conventions, business meetings, trade shows and private parties for organizations, businesses and individuals.
“Traffic was so bad this morning.”
“My alarm didn’t go off.”
“I thought my shift started at 11.”
The words are different, but the tune is the same: Late. Again.
You’ve tried letting it slide. You’ve tried bringing it up in employee reviews. You’ve tried giving warnings. Are habitually late employees just an inevitable thorn in your side? What can you do?
Put responsibility where it belongs (hint: not on you).
As a manager, ensuring that employees are on time might be your responsibility, but at the end of the day, it simply isn’t possible to make your employees show up on time. What does that mean for you? Put the responsibility on the shoulders of the only people who can make it happen: employees themselves. How?
- Refuse to nag. Decide what’s important, and what you will and will not do or accept when it comes to tardiness.
- Involve the right people. Make sure no one is caught off guard by communicating consequences with everyone involved early in the process.
- Clearly outline and document consequences. Written warning, docked pay, docked bonus
- Offer options and accountability hand in hand. Say something like “I do need you to be here reliably on time in the mornings. I need you to either commit to that going forward, or we can talk about changing your start time—which one makes sense?”
- Focus on the behavior, not the individual. This helps you keep your cool and puts the focus on the issue at hand.
Be a hardnose.
Nobody wants to be a hardnose (we’re keeping this PG). But when it comes to setting boundaries with employees about key company policies (ahem, being on time), it’s crucial and non-negotiable. The good news is that setting and then standing by boundaries isn’t as difficult or painful as it might sound.
- Start now. Don’t wait until you’re on your last nerve to address the issue (if that ship has sailed, take a step back from the problem, grab a latte, whatever it takes). Waiting until you’re at code red also sends a confusing message to other employees about the (seeming) lack of consequences.
- Outline clear expectations. In many cases, employees are chronically late simply because they can be. Change the tone by setting expectations for punctuality and then writing them down someplace where they’ll be seen often, not just the employee handbook (a reminder in the company newsletter, a twice-yearly email, etc.). Determine a clear progression (e.g., one verbal warning, one written warning, a write-up with HR, a day’s leave without pay, etc.)
- Involve the right people. Making sure that all managers and company stakeholders are in the loop when it comes to cracking down on lateness is key to avoiding distracting sidebars if a disgruntled employee whose pay was docked for lateness tries to go over your head (the old “mom said no, go find dad” routine).
- Be consistent. While it may be easy to let some instances of lateness slide, calmly taking the steps, you’ve outlined and agreed upon sends the message that punctuality is important. Some lateness is inevitable, so follow your gut. But as soon as a pattern emerges, be proactive and stay consistent.
Change your paradigm.
When dealing with chronically late employees, it can be all too easy to get caught up in the lateness itself — sometimes at the expense of the bigger picture. Take a step back and ask yourself why this matter? Is this employee late and unproductive, or does he make up the extra hours? Is she missing meetings? Is the employee’s lateness affecting others’ ability to get work done effectively? The answer may very well be a resounding yes, but sometimes it’s no, and the lateness itself is the biggest problem. What to do if this is the case? Change your paradigm.
- Consider your competition. With a workforce that increasingly values flexibility (and has opportunities in the gig economy to find it in nontraditional working arrangements), allowing for more flexibility in arrival times may give you a significant boost in morale.
- Meet halfway. Consider a policy that allows for flexibility some of the time (e.g., arrival time in the mornings) and a no-tolerance policy for other times (e.g., meetings).
- Adjust schedules when possible. If there’s a pattern in the excuses for late arrival (oversleeping, for instance. Or running into traffic after dropping kids off at school), adjust schedules when possible. Why fight an uphill battle?
- Empower your employees. Give your employees the tools to be transparent about what they’re working on and when, with a best-of-breed time-tracking app, such as TSheets, that helps everyone stay on the same page.
All employees are going to be late occasionally. After all, they’re only human. But when it comes to chronically late employees, placing responsibility where it belongs, setting boundaries that everyone is aligned on, and changing your paradigm when necessary goes a long way toward fostering a work environment that’s good for everyone.
From — Angie O’Hara (Director of Marketing at TSheets, https://www.tsheets.com/
I find this article very helpful! To avoid intellectual property right, the source is fully listed at the bottom. Laws are based on UK legislation, so consult your country or state or local government on labor laws, licenses, insurance, and taxes.
If you’re skilled at helping businesses to operate smoothly, setting up as a management consultant might be the right option for you. Our guide gives you all the essentials you need for starting up and running your own business.
The information in this guide is organized under the two-main cash flow forecast headings of: INCOME |and EXPENDITURE (see below).
Start with the CASH SALES section under INCOME, which includes an overview of the sector, so you can work out how to start making sales. Then look at each of the INCOME and EXPENDITURE sections.
The CHECKPOINTS at the bottom of sections give more detailed help, including these key topics:
You might decide to buy an existing management consultancy business rather than start your own venture from scratch. Buying a going concern can mean that:
- there are established clients and network contacts
- the business can generate income immediately
- the business has a reputation and a track record, which can help if you are looking for finance
- any staff are already in place
However, look critically at any consultancy that you are interested in to make sure the price you negotiated with the seller is a fair one. Try to establish why the business is for sale – for example, is the owner keen to retire or is there another personal reason for selling up.
Your market research into the sector will help you establish whether the owner is selling because he or she can no longer generate enough income from the consultancy. This may not necessarily deter you – many business people are confident that they can turn a failing business around. The important thing is to have established the current position so that the price you pay for the business is not too high.
- whether your own skill set is a good match with the range of services offered by the consultancy business you’re considering taking over
- the client database, network contacts and partner organizations
- existing staff rights
- how to retain key personnel once you’ve taken over
- does the business owe money that you will be responsible for?
- if you are paying for goodwill to what extent does this depend on the skills, personality and contacts of the seller
Be aware that many small management consultancies own little in the way of physical assets and may amount to little more than one or two individuals providing their services to clients. In many cases, the individual/s are essentially the business. If these individuals are leaving, is there any guarantee that their client list and contacts will remain loyal to the business?
Look critically at the business accounts for the past three years and consider the selling price considering what the accounts reveal. Make sure you budget for professional fees such as legal fees and valuation and survey costs if you are also buying business premises.
What has been happening in the management consultancy sector?
According to statistics published by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) the UK management consulting industry is estimated to be the largest in Europe. Although in recent years the role of the management consultant has become increasingly important – helping management to handle and implement all manner of change in the workplace – it is important to remember that demand for management consultancy services is affected by the state of the economy.
During times of downturn many clients – including the public sector – keep the amount they spend on consultancy services to a minimum or decide not to use consultancy services at all. And because many weaker businesses fail, the pool of potential clients shrinks too. Smaller consultancies are generally the first to suffer from a downturn in the economy – but they are often also the first to recover when conditions improve. When things pick up many clients start spending on consultancy services in a small way and then increase spending as the economy strengthens and business confidence returns.
In the early 2000s the sector suffered from market instability because of the global threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq. Many consultancies had to reduce the number of staff they employed. This led to the growth of small or ‘niche’ consultancy firms set up by consultants who had been released by the larger firms.
The mid 2000s saw the market for management consultancy increase with the fortunes of smaller firms in showing an improvement. Many consultancies benefited from a significant increase in the amount of work outsourced to external consultants by both local and central government departments. This increase in demand boosted the number of consultants leaving larger firms to set up on their own, making the small firm consultancy sector very competitive.
The late 2000s saw the economy slow down considerably. Substantial cost cutting in the public sector had a very significant impact on management consultants who focus on working for government organizations. The economy remained very weak into the early 2010s, although things began to improve during 2013. The mid 2010s saw the economy continue to strengthen, although a great deal of uncertainty resulted from the vote in June 2016 to leave the EU. It is expected that this uncertainty will have an adverse effect on the economy so that growth will be lower than previously predicted.
The economic downturn was actually good news for some consultants, who saw increased demand for downsizing, outsourcing and other efficiency measures from businesses and organizations which were forced to cut costs. Moreover, as the economy began to recover during the mid-2010s, freelancing and self-employment became increasingly prominent as the workforce took on a new and generally more flexible nature.
Recent years have seen the emergence of environmental consulting. It has become important for businesses to demonstrate their ‘green’ credentials and ethical practices to their customers – something which specialist environmental consultants can help them with.
The five key trends in UK consulting (and I believe in the USA as well) are identified by the MCA (Management Consultancies Assoc.) as:
- more diversity for clients due to the highly competitive market with a constant flow of new entrants
- more diversity within consultancy firms, with innovative ways of working to reflect the digital age
- pressure following the financial crisis to look for new overseas markets
- providing the bridge between new technology and the challenges facing leaders
- current ways of doing business, including contracting by results
Keeping up to date with developments
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date. There are two main professional bodies for management consultants in the UK (I USA – American Management Association, SCORE, Small Business Administration), all of which provide a great deal of support and information to their members.
The Institute of Consulting (IC) is the main professional body for UK management consultants. It is an organisation within the Chartered Management Institute. The IC has a code of professional conduct and practice for members and is the awarding body for the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification. You can contact the IC through their website.
The Management Consultancies Association (MCA) represents mainly larger management consultancies and provides a great deal of support, information and industry research to its members. It also produces several useful publications. You can find out more on the MCA website.
Subscribing to and reading a professional journal is another excellent way of keeping up to date with developments. There are several professional journals and online resources of interest to consultants, such as:
- Professional Manager magazine, published by the Chartered Management Institute
- Management Today magazine
Your network of contacts is another useful way of keeping up with any important developments in the sector. The IC and the MCA both have a list of networking events on their websites. The IC also has a full programme/program of regional networking events for members.
You will probably charge your clients for the work you undertake either by billing them for objectives met (although you will have given them an estimate based on the time you will spend on a project) or, more likely, by keeping a record of the time you spend on a project and billing your client at an hourly or daily rate.
Your hourly or daily rate may vary according to:
- the type of work undertaken
- the size and prestige of the consultancy
- your level of qualification. For example, if you have the widely-recognised/recognized Certified Management Consultant (CMC) qualification you may be able to charge higher fees
- the location of the consultancy. Rates in London and south-east England are likely to be substantially higher than those charged elsewhere in the country
It would be helpful to find out what rates your immediate competitors are charging and what is the ‘going rate’ for doing a particular type of work for a certain type of client. Although you will have to base your own rates on your costs and on the level of income you want to bring into the consultancy, you will also have to remain broadly competitive.
You might be prepared to offer some clients a lower or discounted rate. For example, for long running projects, or to clients who regularly require your services. In some cases, you might need to quote a particularly competitive rate to win a consultancy contract. And in other cases, a contract that you go for might specify the daily rates on offer, with no room for negotiation. If you do some work on a sub-contract basis for another management consultancy you’ll probably also be prepared to accept a lower fee.
When you think about your hourly rate for yourself and any other consultants you might employ remember that only a certain proportion of the hours you work will actually be chargeable hours. This is because you must spend quite a significant amount of time on other things such as:
- managing your consultancy
- continuing professional development (CPD)
Make sure that you and any staff you employ are very disciplined when it comes to keeping time records.
Give some thought also to what your fees will or will not include. Whether you’re charging on an ‘objectives met’ basis, or on a time basis, you’ll need to be clear if the fees include expenses like materials, travel and subsistence. Make sure your clients are clear about this too.
Don’t forget to set out in your engagement letter the basis on which you will charge and your terms and conditions.
Successful networking is vital to the success of your consultancy. By building up and updating a network of other consultants, partner organisations/organization and prospective clients you can find work through referrals, recommendations and shared projects. Networking will also make your consultancy better known and help to establish your reputation.
Joining a professional body and attending management consultancy events and conferences can provide you with networking opportunities. The Institute of Consulting (IC) and the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) both have a full list of national and regional events on their websites. They also run special interest groups for the different areas of consultancy.
Online networking and social media services like LinkedIn also provide networking opportunities, enabling you and like-minded professionals to make new contacts and exchange information, ideas and business opportunities.
The range of services you decide to offer your clients will depend on your own training, qualifications, experience and areas of specialisation/specialization. Some of the services you could offer might include the following:
- business strategy and planning, to provide a clear sense of purpose and direction in your client’s business
- improvement of business processes, to help your client become more customer focused and efficient and adopt best practice wherever possible
- knowledge management
- IT systems – advising on suppliers and systems, and supervising implementation and training
- human capital management, such as staff training, recruitment and employment issues
- crisis management
- risk management
- change management and disaster recovery planning
- privatisation/privatization of public services
- business culture improvement
- quality management, to increase sales presence and customer satisfaction
- marketing, market research and business forecasting
- outplacement services
- environmental management, to help businesses ‘green’ their operations
- The projects you work on will vary in length, depending on how large the client is and how complex the assignment. It’s important to make sure you know which people you’ll be dealing with in the client’s organisation/organization and, if required, plan in regular meetings with them. They may want you to let them have progress reports throughout the project.
Skills and qualities
As well as your areas of specialist knowledge most clients will expect the management consultants they appoint to have the following skills and qualities:
- client handling skills
- business analysis skills
- team building skills
- strategic planning skills
- implementation skills
- the ability to deliver
- the ability to think creatively
Advertising your consultancy
- For your management consultancy to be a success it’s essential that your potential clients know about you and the services you offer. You should be aware that promoting a management consultancy requires constant marketing activity and networking with your contacts. If you are a member of a professional body such as the Institute of Consulting (IC) or the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) your consultancy and details of your specialisations/specialization will be included in their searchable online directories.
There are a number of other things you can do to market and promote your consultancy services:
- use a professional networking website like LinkedIn
- advertise in a business directory
- have your own website which lists your services, qualifications and CV, details of some of the successful projects you’ve handled, testimonials and contact details
- have leaflets printed that you send out to your contacts and businesses that might use your services. It’s essential to have some business cards printed so you can leave them with contacts you meet
- constantly update your contacts and attempt to find new ones
Institute of Consulting (IC)
Management Consultancies Association (MCA)
Management Today (MT)
Small Business Administration (USA)
Sector Donut, Management consultant. Retrieved from http://www.sectorsdonut.co.uk/sectors/business-services/management-consultant/overview