The big levelers.

Another (English) teaser for my book "Mittelmaß und Wahnsinn" (Mediocrity and Madness). This is a bit of a sensitive one. It is about consulting and consultants. Like most of the  book, that chapter tends to be more on the provocative side. At the same time I am working as a consultant right now. Thus I have to walk a fine line between reality-reflecting criticism and avoiding the impression that you should not employ consultants at all (especially if they are of the no-nonsense type I am trying to be).

Well, the book’s recommendation actually is to trust more in your own capabilities and use these (“Sapere aude!”), weighing carefully if and when to cede the practice of reasoning to mercenaries. This is not to say that there would be no place for extending your workbench and tapping into fresh wells of ideas and insights but it goes against the – not too uncommon – addiction to consulting as an extension of companies’ minds and bodies.

The respective chapter titles “The big levelers – how we cede reasoning to consultants” and it begins:

„Inside the matrix we are too busy to create. Hence we call in reinforcements: consultants. Purportedly only on a temporary basis: to cope with peak loads or to bring in skills we don’t have on our own. We live under the illusion, we would manage these consultants, we would use them like tools to our own purpose. Reality is different. The who produces – even if only slides – determines action; and the who determines action in the end determines reasoning, too.

It gets even worse: Because consultants are good – and many are indeed – we leave the reasoning to them in the first place. This way, we start depending on the reasoning of outsiders. Consequentially, consulting turns into a drug and the recurring mandate for the consultant is nothing but a symptom of our addiction to this drug. Because -- finally -- we lack of resources for implementation as well, the mandates are growing ever bigger and the addiction becomes all-consuming.”

Money, money, money

The book continues a little further, appreciating the virtues and achievements of consultants before it turns towards the darker side:

„Here comes the twist in the plot. Consulting is a business tough as nails. Consultants more often than not are highly qualified, smart, knowledgeable, charming at times. The good ones truly care about their clients and seriously try creating some value. They put in a lot of dedication, especially when it comes to time and effort of junior consultants. But hardly any other line of business is as much driven by revenues and profit as this one. If you want to climb more than the first rungs of any renowned consultancy’s ladder, maybe even reach the summit of mount Olympus, the partners’ level, then all it is about is: acquisition, acquisition, acquisition.”

A good point to stop for today. Actually the book moves on to the heart of the chapter: consulting’s role as the big leveler of knowledge and action across companies and industries. But that’s a topic for another post (or reading the book).

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