August 3, 2008 by
Filed under: Leadership, People 

There are as many opinions about how to improve your business as there are consultants – likely more. While it may appear on the surface that there are large groups with the same message, you will find that as you dig deeper, everyone’s message is nuanced with their own experiences and biases. There is a right answer for you out there, but you need to watch that you don’t get bounced around like a pinball.

For the most part, if you were to listen to a consultant (or these days, a politician), you would get a long-winded explanation about why their proposed solution is right for you. As you expand your search to include other consultants, you might get similar proposals (depending on how you phrased your query), or something that is diametrically opposed.

One thing I have found over time is that there is a vast difference between having the right answer for you and convincing you that we have the right answer for you. Unfortunately, it is far easier to excel at the latter than the former, and many believe that once you are hooked, that is all that matters. Once we have your vote, once you have signed the contract, we have accomplished our goal.

It is easy to become very cynical about the whole thing, to decide that there really isn’t a single good approach for you after all.

There is a better way, of course. The right answer for you is to do what is right for your context, to do something that fits your experiences and biases. A reasonable consultant (or tool vendor, or politician) will take the time to understand your context, and recognizes that the real win comes at the completion of the engagement, well beyond the contract signing. A reasonable consultant invests in the relationship, and guess what: you need to, too.

If you are tasked with finding a solution to a problem that is not your problem, it is easy to take the suggestion of vendors at face value, and make the selection criteria simply a matter of least-cost compliant. That may work for office supplies, but for strategic value, it is worth deeper consideration. Recognize that you are not buying a commodity here, but investing in a better future.

It is highly unlikely that any face value proposal will be a perfect fit. If you are looking at investing in a training initiative, or a change in the way work is accomplished in the organization, this is best done in the context of the status quo, your organizational goals, and the culture that exists. Take the time to tailor a solution that works in this context, and the value you obtain from the engagement will be far greater. You will obtain a return on the investment, rather than simply spend the budget.

The right thing to do for your organization is to consider external opinions, recognizing that on first blush, that is all they are. Nobody can definitively resolve your needs without working closely with you to understand those needs. Take ownership of finding the right solution, recognize that it needs to be framed within your context, and you will avoid feeling like a pinball as you listen to the different pitches. – JB


Feel free to leave a comment...