frequently asked questions about Ducks-In-A-Row

Here are some questions we are frequently asked.

So, what is it you do?

Are you professional organizers?

What does your work have to do with psychology?

What does your work have to do with systems engineering?

How much does it cost?

What's with all the ducks, then?


 

So, what is it you do?

We help people get organized.

Unlike most other consulting businesses, our focus is on the individual or the small team, rather than on the institution.

Most of our clients are high added value professionals, with a large component of their value based on what they know rather than on what they do. Examples include attorneys, engineering managers, professors and researchers, architects, and writers. As professionals ourselves, we have rapport with the highly trained professional in a way that many business consultants don't.

The problem we are most often called in to solve is that an individual or a small group is failing to live up to their maximum potential because of issues of work flow or information management. We provide custom consultation and custom solutions.

We don't just deliver a report. We deliver a solution. We don't stop at analyzing and proposing. Often, in fact, our clients already know what to do. We identify how they or their circumstances are sabotaging their intentions. We build work-arounds and we build an environment to help the busy person do what needs doing.

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So you help people get organized. Are you professional organizers??

Not exactly. We have always been more interested in helping people find better ways to organize themselves, so we originally called our business "Organizing Consultants". As the field of professional organizing has developed, it has focused on issues of tidiness and spatial clarity, which while important in their own right, don't reflect the central features of our work. That's why we recently changed our name to "efficiency consultants". We help people overcome challenges to their efficiency.

Now it's true that the spatial environment can be important to productivity. For that reason we used to have professional organizers working for us. We've learned that this sends the wrong message about who we are and what we're about, though, so we now refer out the sort of work that is usually called "professional organizing".

We do help people get organized and we do so professionally, but we aren't what you might expect of "professional organizers". While we can indeed help you with effective design of working space, what we do also combines aspects of operations consulting, technical training, and executive coaching. In short, we deliver "skills and tools for sustainable productivity".

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What does your work have to do with psychology?

There are two main issues that Irene has studied as a psychologist that are directly relevant to the sorts of problems we address. Irene's thesis work was about the allocation of attention, and her licensed practice focused on recovery from stress and trauma. The first issue is central to the work issues of many of us today, particularly the issues of the most ambitious and talented people. The issues of success are less and less about allocation of capital, more and more about allocation of attention.

Unfortunately, though we'd prefer to come into a situation before a crisis occurs, it is also the case that many times we are called upon when someone has bitten off more than they can chew. In these situations, emotional tangles further complicate the situation. Irene is very talented at untangling emotions.

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What does your work have to do with systems engineering?

As responsibility grows, there ensues a dramatic increase in the number and importance of the processes in which we participate. Eventually, one's career progresses beyond the point where informal systems can successfully allocate attention. In many cases the ambitious professional reaches a point where some formal strategy is necessary.

This question has a close analogy in the discipline of operating system design, where a computer processor has to be told how to allocate its processing power to satisfy a multitude of simultaneous demands from the environment. Time management maps almost exactly onto a classical engineering problem.

Of course, there are substantial differences. People need to keep a lot of routines going or their skill will decline, for example. People have constraints on how quickly they can abosrb things, and how many things they can track at the same time. Most importantly and delightfully, of course, people aren't machines, and they have experiences and emotions. That's why there's a psychological component to the solution of the engineering problem of how to get the most out of a high valued individual or team. It is an engineering problem nonetheless.

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How much does it cost?

We charge reasonable professional rates, comparable to those of an accountant, less than those of a good attorney. We typically travel to your site to gain maximum insight into your environment, which improves our service, but impacts our cost of doing business.

Each customer relationship is unique, so it's difficult to be more precise in general. Some customers benefit from a few sessions, paid on an hourly basis. Others work on contract, to an agreed specification.

Others still prefer an ongoing relationship, which sometimes amounts to management for hire for people at the top of their own pyramid who could still use a little watching. This is coaching in a sense, but it's not just motivational. Just as Vince Lombardi knew something about the skills required to play football, we know something about the skills of coping with many demands.

There are a couple of specific cases that can give you an idea of our fees.

An initial two-hour assessment is usually delivered at your workplace. In our local area (We are based in Chicago, and also charge local rates around Madison, Wisconsin) Many customers gain benefit from a few brief sessions, in which case we charge by the hour and provide no additional services beyond the consultation.

A full day out of town (anywhere in North America) is usually $1500 for one of us or $2250 for both. With sufficient lead time this includes travel costs within North America.

Because each service relationship with us is unique, our contracts are subject to negotiation.

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What's with all the ducks, then?

The idiom "to get your ducks in a row" is widespread in English-speaking countries but not universally known. It means "to become thoroughly organized or well-prepared."

We take a lighthearted approach to serious issues. Our goal is to find customized ways to manage daily life which are enjoyable and convenient. Our name and our logo represent or belief that efficiency can be natural and delightful, valuable in its own right as well as for its benefits

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