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Consulting paradox?

#1 Consulting paradox?
06/12/2006 13:23


Here's a thought:

I spotted a comment in a recent thread that certain firms are focused on 'operational' stuff, while other firms are involved in 'cutting edge consulting'. I mention no names of posters or firms.

The tone and implication seemed to suggest that this 'cutting edge consulting' is somehow btter than the operational improvement stuff. Anyway, that got me to thinking.

Consulting firms, as they get bigger, tend more towards packaged solutions to common themed problems. Not all, but often the bigger the firm, the more emphasis on the 'our way' solution.

There are two paradoxes I can see from this. First, if the solution given to the client is fundamentally the same, how is it supposed to add value or advantage to the client if all the competitors have these same solutions as well - all the consulting firms claim to work for at least 90% of the Fortune 500, so they all work for the same companies, right? Second, the consulting firms are constantly on about how they hire the 'best people'. The paradox here is that these best people are being hired in to do paint-by-numbers. Cookie-cutter consulting.

I'm sure it's not as black and white as I make it sound, but think about the implications. Discuss.

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#2 RE: Consulting paradox?
06/12/2006 17:41

Fred to Boxershorts (#1)

This is actually an interesting question. I'm reminded of the story of the mechanic who looked at the engine a bit and then reached in to tighted one screw. He presented a bill for £1000. The client freaks out: "£1000 to tighten a screw!". "No," says the mechanic, "It's £1 to tighten the screw and £999 for knowing which screw to tighten."

So we have the grey haris and experience brigade on one hand (who know that it's probably a screw that needs tightening), while on the other we have the guys who have been given a screwdriver and told to tighten screws. Solutions looking for problems. Solutions often out of context as well. So why hire the 'best people' for that?

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#3 RE: Consulting paradox?
31/01/2007 23:54

Boxershorts to Boxershorts (#1)

Reviving this thread because I'm curious about the views of some of the regular posters on the site (and others as well, of course). I think there's a story here.

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#4 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 11:05

Pectin to Boxershorts (#3)

Interesting thought here. I see the conundrum - why do firms insist on trumpeting that they hire 'only the very best', and make access so difficult for aspiring consultants, yet not use all this talent. I think the paint-by-numbers analogy is quite apt.

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#5 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 12:06

A. Non to Pectin (#4)

does anyone really believe that "the best" work for anyone other than themselves??

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#6 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 12:30

Bobby to A. Non (#5)

Do you realise how overwhelmingly difficult it is for most clients to do something as seemingly simple as tighten a screw?

And then consider why they are unable to the easy operational stuff which is just like painting by numbers:

implementing enormous business critical systems implementations that include multiple design/build/test/deploy/migrate cycles over a number of years, using offshore development centres, and involving various departments of the client's business at a number of physical locations, ensuring that it integrates with various external and legacy systems, with a high level of confidence on timely delivery and spend, while at the same time transforming the client's business to fit the new system, outsourcing the IT client's IT organisation, and training the thousands of users who wouldn't even know how to tighten a screw properly.

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#7 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 13:30

Anon to Pectin (#4)

Ignore the "we hire only the very best" and things start to make a lot more sense. Look around you in the office (even look in the mirror if you have the guts) - are these people really the best? Of course not. Now it's easier to understand why so much of consulting is about basic administrative competence and "painting by numbers".

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#8 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 16:28

Bonzer to Bobby (#6)

Booby: I don't believe for a moment that these are the type of things consulting firms are involved in in general. At least these are the exception, rather than the rule. During my time, I've been marginally involved with three such major programmes of change, both spearheaded by high-profile firms. Guess how many were successful? None of them.

Perhaps paint-by-numbers doesn't work.

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#9 RE: Consulting paradox?
01/02/2007 16:32

Mr T to Bonzer (#8)

Im definitely not the best.

I've met loads of people more intelligent than me.

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