I just HAVE to weigh in on David Maister's post Do You Dispense Useless Pills?
David writes about having made the choice not just to do what potential clients ask...selling them what they want even if those solutions don't work (or if they aren't ready for it?). He talks about walking away from the business rather than just performing the service knowing it won't be effective.
He cites a reader who describes that trainers will be a lot poorer if declining opportunities to do things even if they know they will be wasteful or ineffective.
His example is training, but I see high applicability to consulting. I made the choice when starting my business seven years ago to decline creating strategies or implementing plans that won't lead to sought results. (And we are indeed poorer than our peers who dispense advice, training, or solutions even when they know that they won't stick.)
For us, it came down to two things: reputation and unwillingness to further harm the profession.
Reputation. Those who know me know that, from day one, I've been determined not to be equated with consultants who've become rich charging mega fees for strategic planning, but left those firms with merely a dusty binder on a shelf.
Yes...while consultants cannot be responsible for implementation (unless hired to do so), we ARE responsible for making sure the recommendations we make or strategies we suggest are actually employable, have better than a snowball's chance in hell of achieving the stated outcome, and are assigned to people who are capable and desirous of doing them. If not, they simply aren't the right strategies (for them) and we didn't do a good enough job researching and planning.
Advancing the profession. To be categorized with the consultants who perpetuate reinforcement of the sacred "billable hour" and other such measurements--counter to the improvement of firms--is also against my grain. We don't require firms to change or even beat them up, but we do try open eyes to the negative impact to customer service and marketing that charge-hour-goal and pricing-after-the-work mentalities foster. And by addressing the problems, we work through solutions that improve profitability, customer communications, and increase revenues. We teach focusing on leading, not lagging, indicators.
I like to think we are beginning to bridge a gap. It's beginning to look that way...
Many prestigious consultants to the professions still emphasize tracking productivity and realization as among the most important statistics in a firm. It upsets me because some of these consultants even admit these focuses are counter-productive and have no bearing on future success (it is PROVEN they don't), yet they continue to preach it because it's what firms want, and expect, to hear. And will pay good money to hear.
Consultants have a degree of influence and authority, especially when they are highly visible as when on the speaker or author circuit. If dispensing one-size-fits-all or wrong advice, consultants can do as much harm as good.
Consultants might agree with me that a reality seems to be that few firms are actually ready or willing to change much of anything. After all, professional service firms are achieving great monetary success. Most professionals are making more money than they ever thought possible. Yet the professions are in crisis.
And consultants who aren't part of the solution are part of the problem. Many are cynical, no longer trusting that the professions are capable of changing their ways. (And most probably won't unless they have to, but I sure hold out hope for those who will!)
Though poorer I admit I am, I simply cannot abide by giving advice and selling solutions that won't change what customers desperately want to change. Or that would give the wrong idea about what works and what doesn't.
Maybe it's a product of having been in-house before consulting. When in-house, we become less vocal every year because of politics, getting shot-down, whatever. Personally, I found consulting very liberating because I could say what I REALLY THOUGHT and not have my entire livelihood at stake. (Just one engagement, I suppose!)
For me it is the ultimate in professional responsibility AND enjoyment. Even if riches elude me. So be it.