Wednesday, September 5, 2007


One thing I still haven't quite gotten used to in my three consulting years is stepping in front of top management - and that means, people who often will have spent successful decades in a business I'd never looked at prior to the project - and telling them what they ought to do. It always amazes me that they are willing to listen. I can't possibly have anything approaching their experience or inside-out knowledge of the company. What do they think I can contribute that they couldn't provide themselves?

If you've ever been on a big consultancy's website, you know the official answer: out-of-the-box thinking. A fresh perspective. Sharp analytic intelligence. The latest b-school savvy.

There might be some cases, not very many, in which this isn't entirely false. Sometimes a company's top brass just isn't very capable. Sometimes they are so deeply caught up in their stuff that they don't see the bigger picture. Sometimes they have vested interests. But mostly our services are useful (if they are) for different kinds of reasons. What we do, mostly, is either of two things. We may spell out inconvenient truths that are generally known but that nobody else is in a position to defend. Or we simply provide short-term managerial capacity. Not very glamorous, but that's what it boils down to. And that's why these guys listen to us.

They were fairly quiet at our steering committee meeting today. No gushing compliments, but nobody got shot down either. I think we did okay.

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