A Few Lessons Learned

I have been fortunate to learn some key lessons from managers and colleagues along my path through the years in the insurance industry, management consulting and industry analysis.

One of the earliest lessons was from my supervisor at AEtna Life & Casualty was CSW or “completed staff work.” After he gave me an assignment and I finished it – or thought that I had finished it – he would look up at me as I was putting it in his in-basket and ask “if it was really completed, was I happy with it, was I sure there wasn’t anything I might have wanted to add?” I almost always kept the paperwork in my hands and took it back to my desk. Later either that day or a few days later I gave him a product that I felt sure met his requirements.

At Arthur D. Little (ADL)  I learned two lessons: one, to always put myself in my customer’s mind. And here I mean more than just wanting to meet our consulting client’s objectives. The main issue is putting myself in the mind of our client’s customers. What should our client be doing to improve their customer’s experience when they did business with that firm? Striving to put the chain of customer’s needs in mind continues to serve me well.

The second lesson at ADL was learning when to declare victory. When in an engagement to say, yes we have accomplished the client’s objectives and take the brush off of the canvas. You might feel this contradicts the first two lessons but it doesn’t. After all, most of our efforts – whatever it is that you and I do – are done in an environment of limited resources (whether time, money, skills, people or some combination). The challenge is to find the optimal solution (and yes, I’m suggesting we think through an Operations Research lens).

The next lesson is also an ongoing one and it applies, in my case as an industry analyst, to think like a VC analyst. No, I don’t mean push to earn as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time, sell out and live on a beach  in Maui. I do mean that my industry analysis will be sharper and deliver better results for my clients the more strategically I approach their situation.

What key lessons have you learned throughout your career?

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Published in: on October 10, 2009 at 9:10 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I’ve learned not to discount the Maui lesson so quickly.

    And I’ve learned the importance of both listening and not speaking – which sort of go hand in hand.

    And I’ve learned that most people, when put into a supportive environment and given encouragement and resources, can achieve far beyond most other people ever believe they could.


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