“Optimus Prime, known in Japan as Convoy, is a fictional character created by the Transformers franchise. He is a Cybertronian, a fictional extraterrestrial species of sentient self-configuring modular robotic lifeforms, a synergistic blend of biological evolution and technological engineering.” — Wikipedia.
It can be entertaining to think about a transformer-type consultant that can morph into the optimal tool for any situation. Some of the more cynical might consider the only way to find such a consultant would be to look outside this galaxy.
I know that I was (and still am) very much aligned with the more cynical. Having listened to many pitches from many consultants over the past 20+ years, I usually get the feeling that each one is just waiting for my team to finish explaining our situation to whip out their “proven process” deck that solves all problems, in all industries, in all conditions with very few modifications.
I guess my cynicism hasn’t diminished.
The Nemesis: A new Decepticon — Ineffective-Tron
“Each year, management consultants in the United States receive more than $2 billion for their services. Much of this money pays for impractical data and poorly implemented recommendations.” HBR Arthur N. Turner
Do consultants add value, and are they a vital component of any business that desires to improve and grow?
Consultants have proven themselves indispensable, which is why there are over 700,000 consultants in the United States.
But how do we choose the optimal “proven process” when we are still uncertain about the problem that needs to be solved? Yes, we are painfully aware of the symptoms, but if we have correctly uncovered the true root-cause, why haven’t we corrected the situation ourselves?
The truth is, most often, several attempts were made to eliminate the troubling symptoms before we started considering bringing on consultants. When those attempts proved less than adequate, we turned to the expensive and often unfulfilling consulting option.
But which consultant should we choose?
Without a clear definition of the problem, the selection of the consultant (and the proven-process) is a SWAG with potentially severe consequences as failure results in a loss of both time and money.
Enter Optimus Consultant!
In a nondescript city on a nondescript continent, an engineering team works to solve one of the most troubling issues of its time.
The situation is dire, if results don’t improve quickly, funding will vanish, and the team’s dream of improving conditions for all will disappear forever.
The mythical sentient self-configuring modular robotic consultant’s appearance is met with cheers and ole’s. The crowd goes crazy.
O.C. (a popular nickname for Optimus Consultant) surveys the situation with infrared, X-Ray, and sonar. The problem becomes evident to all, and O.C. spins, rotates, and morphs into the perfect tool for the job to deliver optimal results.
With the crisis resolved, O.C. returns to Cybertron as the conquering hero.
If you are looking to retain an O.C. for yourself, here are the four “must-haves” for any consultant deserving serious consideration.
1. The proven-process must include an assessment. Would you trust a doctor who pronounced your ailment before examining you? Would you trust a doctor who always prescribed the same treatment even after examining a patient?
2. This assessment should not benchmark performance against the proven process but the organization’s definition of success. Businesses are complex. Innovation drives very different strategies. A Red Flag should pop up if a consultant doesn’t ask, listen carefully to the response; about what success looks like to the organization.
3. The solution must be comprehensive. Looking at a problem through a narrow lens leads to suboptimal solutions and a subsequent cascading of issues. While there may be simple solutions, there is no optimal solution that ignores broader impacts. Holistic solutions are possible. Ensure that what you are paying for includes one.
4. A willingness to tell the truth. Consultants are human. There is always the temptation to embellish potential results or de-emphasize risks. It is still helpful to dig deeper into the risks before deciding on a partner for your effort. A truthful consultant will not hesitate to contribute a long list of risks that make sense to you. If few risks are forthcoming, red flags should start whipping in the wind.
An End to the Analogy
I had fun with the analogy above, but the issue that is the point of this article is way too serious to take lightly.
So let’s get serious for a minute.
As a global society, there are significant dangers that need to be addressed. Global Warming, Community Health, and Cybersecurity are three of the most urgent.
These challenges will almost definitely be resolved or mitigated through technological advancements. Unfortunately, there is a significant shortage of technical resources.
This shortage is projected to continue for at least the next decade.
To meet the increasing demand for software development, tech teams and tech organizations need to be more efficient given the current shortage of experienced resources.
Reducing the inefficiencies associated with applying the wrong (or sub-optimal) solution to the current problem is an excellent way to generate more throughput and make more progress on your goals.
So, whether you are working on an app to entertain toddlers or an app to eliminate world hunger, remember that when you need a consultant, make sure you find your own O.C.!
Thanks for reading.
If you would like to continue the discussion, please comment, or reach out via our website Ajito.io