Sociologist takes scientific approach to consulting

Hanif Nu’Man, founder and chief sociologist at ReSCI Consulting, takes a science-based approach to business management consulting.

“I go into organizations, and I attempt to do a deep dive into your workspace by doing qualitative methodologies — interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, surveys, observation — to get an understanding of your culture,” he said.

By applying these research methods, he helps businesses solve specific problems with their operations. For example, if a client’s business is suffering due to poor customer service, he could hone in on failures to communicate that stem from the company’s culture.

As part of that process, he takes the data gleaned from these measures, compares conflicting opinions and perspectives within the organization, and creates an independent assessment. That is used to outline possible effects of intervention, as well as make recommendations for possible next steps.

“I try to find the soft skill solution to fit the problem that seems to exacerbate the poor culture,” Nu’Man said, speaking at a recent meeting of entrepreneurial group 1 Million Cups in Madison.

His background includes a PhD in sociology from UW-Madison and over three years of prosecuting financial crimes for the Illinois attorney general’s office. That included mortgage fraud, state benefits fraud and various types of theft.

During his time there, he grew interested in the effect of environment on criminality, and decided to pursue studies of this topic at the UW. He did his dissertation on the mortgage collapse of 2009, examining the factors that influenced criminal behavior at many different levels.

“I looked at loan originators, bank executives, and state regulators, trying to tease out in each of those respective work spaces, how the cultural cognitive aspects of their work, how their workspace informed their decision making,” he said.

He took that understanding and created Madison-based ReSCI Consulting in June 2015. He’s done some training with city staff, as well as nonprofits in the area.

“I’m interested in the people; I’m a sociologist,” he said. “I deal with interpersonal relationships, so it really doesn’t matter what the organization or the industry is. It’s about the attitudes and the behavior and the norms.”

Nu’Man says it can be “unsettling” for companies to hire someone like him, “because you’re having to admit there’s something about your culture that needs to be enhanced, and that’s what we do.”

He outlined in his presentation another challenge with selling himself to executive-level decision makers: it’s difficult to tell an organization what the problem is until he’s done some level of assessment.

“I have the capacity to ask important questions, relevant questions. From that information, we can identify what your list of problems are, we can help you put them in order of importance, we can figure out what you want to do about it,” he said.

His workshops cover topics like intergenerational communication; nonverbal communication; improving cultural competencies for wider worldview; building internal trust; developing shared meanings and experiences; and more.

–By Alex Moe