Consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time and then leave with your watch
“Consultants borrow your watch to tell you the time, and then they go with your watch.” So said Robert Townsend, former CEO of Avis, in his no-nonsense observation on management nonsense: Up the Organization …
This is often interpreted to mean that the consultants will question you and your colleagues, capture your knowledge, and then fail to adequately document or share what they have learned with you. But those consultants have no useful knowledge to share. Or that if they do, they will be very careful about sharing their knowledge with you in a way that reduces your dependence on them. And when everything goes wrong, who is blamed? It does, by not controlling them properly.
Many people believe that this problem is as relevant today as when Townsend made his widely accepted observation. And the catalog of disasters and frustrations suggests that it is. But there are consultants who have overcome this problem, consultants who offer high-quality service and get used to it again and again because they have addressed the most fundamental problem. How do these ‘good consultants’ do it?
First, if the ‘good consultants’ have real knowledge to donate, then they externalize it in a way that stays with their client when they leave: the knowledge is hard-coded. Second, if they do not have the knowledge themselves, then they make it easier for the client to externalize what they really know but cannot easily verbalize; again, the knowledge is encoded. And if they are working on information systems, they make sure it is very clear WHAT should be done, HOW and WHY; again, the knowledge is encoded.
And if you contact us, we can give you a list of consultants who can be trusted as “good consultants” – they won’t borrow your watch to tell you the time and they won’t walk away with your watch!