Consultants Who Give Consultants a Bad Name

I am a consultant.  There.  I said it.  Although admission may be the first step toward recovery, I prefer to think of myself as a facilitator, coach, or business advisor, especially since in some circles being called  a consultant can have the same feeling a being called a snake oil salesman – leaves you feeling a bit….. well… you know.  It’s not that consultants aren’t needed – many organizations lack the expertise that consultants can bring to the table; it’s just that, many consultants simply point out issues management already knows exists and don’t present a viable plan for fixing the problem (unless it involves hiring them to fix it).

Having spent most of my career on the other side of the table (not as a consultant), I tend to have an appreciation, or skepticism of what benefit hiring a consultant will have.  So, with that in mind, one thing I believe a consultant should never do is take credit for something they did not have any impact on.  And, one thing that clients (especially those in the trenches) always complain about is consultants taking credit for things they had nothing to do with.

According to my sources, which I will not reveal, here is a perfect example:

A nearly billion dollar organization recently hired a consulting group to help them with a financial turnaround.  The consultants presented a financial executive in the organization with a list of the benefits / improvements the consultants were responsible for.  The executive was “advised” not to ask any questions about the items on the list, one of which was the IRS reduction in mileage reimbursement from $0.55 per mile to $0.50 per mile that was effective January 1, 2010.  The executive could say nothing because the acting CEO of this organization is a member of the same consulting firm that prepared the list….

Wow!  And we wonder why there’s skepticism…

Any stories like this you want to share? Comment it up!

Oh, the financial executive has since left the organization.



4 thoughts on “Consultants Who Give Consultants a Bad Name

  1. Glenn,

    I agree with you. Don’t you think it has to do with selling?

    Consultants and consulting firms are in a tough position. They have to keep selling themselves. Often times, I’ve found the person who sponsors them is at the executive level and has limited visibility into day-to-day operations, so its in the consultants best interest to exaggerate… err…. let me try a different word… ‘highlight’ places where they’ve been successful.

    I worked with a well know Indian outsourcing firm. They had enough people assigned to us that they have a full-time project manager. This guys job was to not only track how projects were going, but also to find additional projects where they could “be of assistance.”

    Every quarter, this project manager had to make a presentation about how things were going. To try and ensure integrity, he made the presentation to both our company and his company’s senior management together. I was forced to sit next to him during one of these webex presentations. His presentation had so little to do with reality that virtually everybody dropped off the presentation from both sides by about mid-way through the presentation.

    If you want to read a great book about how many of the well-known consulting firms started and what, why and how they went about their business, check out: Consulting Demons by Louis Pinault (book link: Awesome book.

  2. Great post.

    I was competing on a bid for a decent sized contract with a large, renowned consultancy, who I had worked for previously. As it turned out, the client director in charge of the bid rang me personally and told me that though my expert knowledge outweighed the consultancy, the board felt that a known name was a safer bet and that the service would be deeper.

    You win some, you lose some.

    I then got a call from the consultancy (who didn’t know it was I bidding against them) wanting to know if I was available to do the work as I was the best qualified person they knew.

    The irony would have been a little too bitter for the client so I had to decline.

  3. Pingback: Do ‘Quick Wins’ Hurt Lean Initiatives? « Performance Improvement

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