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Striving for "A-Ha!" Insights

I'm a senior associate at Katzenbach Partners, a management-strategy consulting firm. In this role, I ensure that two things happen. First, that specific parts of a project ("work streams") that are my responsibility are carried out according to schedule, and second, that associates working on the project have support and guidance.

Most of the time, I work between engagement managers or principals, the people who generally run our projects and develop broad recommendations, and associates, the ones who do a lot of the basic analysis required to come up with the "A-Ha!" insights that clients pay us for.

To give you more of a sense of where I fit into all this, understand that a project (very generally) involves four steps. First, we define the scope of the work, which means figuring out both what the client thinks the issues are and setting expectations around what we'll do. Second, we gather and analyze data. This can involve any number of things, from interviews and surveys to market analyses and mining data from systems. Third, we develop recommendations based on those analyses, and fourth, we implement the recommendations.

Over the course of these four project stages, I work with associates to compile the analyses we've done and with managers to assess the implications and come up with recommendations for our clients.

WIDE-RANGING ROLE. My current role centers on external work stemming from two clients and internal project-oriented work. External client work tends to span a few categories. Nitty-gritty details, like planning a monthly teleconference for a worldwide network of product-development leaders at a pharmaceutical firm; big-picture brainstorming, like working with a leadership team at a software company to define different ways of implementing a strategy; editing presentations; and developing and managing relationships.

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