The Problem with Consultants

Much of my experience says organizations don’t need consultants. And when I say that, I mean the big ones that come in with an army of highly ambitious, newly minted MBAs who work feverishly to come up with their answer to your particular challenge. They usually do masterful PowerPoint presentations, backed up with elaborate data housed in Excel spreadsheets, that are articulately presented by a partner in the firm who stops by from time to time but mostly when it’s time to interact with the corner office.

Of course, that’s their business model. And since those fresh MBAs don’t have much real life experience with your business, they have a common approach they use to stall while they figure something, anything, out. In a recent article, How Consultants Project Expertise and Learn at the Same Time, the HBR article calls it a “performance”:

“Like skillful actors, they use a combination of “backstage” preparation and “front stage” performance to make the audience (that is, the client) believe the story they want to tell.”

And equally troubling:

“In other words, consultants really are faking it ’til they make it…”

Of course, the client knows this. A quick search for consultant jokes makes it obvious (a consultant is someone who comes in and takes my watch to tell me what time it is.). And the consultants know the clients know. So, according to the same HBR article, consultants use three tactics to combat this:

  1. Crafting Relevance to Seem Competent While Learning – “One way to do this is to collect nuggets of information and selectively present them back to clients.”
  2. Crafting Resonance by Recycling Insider Knowledge – “Recycling insider knowledge to gain acceptance while acquiring new information.”
  3. Crafting Substance by Creating Knowledge Objects – “Consultants often use ideographs… and many consulting firms maintain a library of readymade templates to help consultants create their figures quickly and easily.”

In other words, clients are paying consultants to come in a learn their business and give their own knowledge back to them in well-formatted, articulate presentations.

Clients pay consultants to tell them what they already know.

This is why we don’t consult. Instead, we bring in methods, tools and our deep experience in business to enable our clients to do strategy for themselves. We can enable our clients quickly and effectively so they can meet their own challenges head on.

We Don’t Consult. We Enable.