Monday, July 30, 2007

Miscellaneous and Fast

Get ready for more nuclear power plants.

US News & World Report gives its take on the most overrated careers.

Garry Kasparov on how The Godfather pertains to modern-day Russia.

Tim Ferriss lists his eight favorite beverages in the world. Needless to say, Pocari Sweat made the list.

A classic Outside article on the captain of the Exxon Valdez.


pawnking said...

Michael, I just took a weekend with my dad, himself a consultant (independent), who had these things to say about consulting in general.

1) A lot of consulting firms employ wet behind the ears MBA grads and teach them more about maximizing their bill for the client than maximizing their value to the client.

2) A lot of executives don't really pay attention to what a consultant tells them. They've already made their minds up. They are usually just hoping that whatever you find helps them to justify what they've already decided to do.

3) True cultural change has to come from the top. However, most executives are more concerned with not making a mistake which will get them fired than the are with truly changing to a better way of doing things.

What are your thoughts on these opinions?


Michael Wade said...


I think your father is very perceptive. I've seen all of those items. A lesson that you learn early on as a consultant - if you are honest - is to give objective advice and then the ball is in the client's court. Most will go with your advice, or most of it, but others will not. Sometimes they'll have a good reason for not doing so. I'm not sure if I'd say that most executives are more concerned with not making a mistake than truly changing to a better way of doing things. My take is that a large portion of many organizations is more in search of comfort than in search of excellence. Inertia is one of the most powerful forces out there.

As for the MBA grads, they're a mixed bag. The old joke is MBA stands for Mediocre But Arrogant but that description is not limited to MBAs. The key thing for new consultants is to learn to listen very carefully to all levels of the organization. This requires combining confidence with humility and resisting the tendency to have all the answers. The old character at the front gate may have some real insight on what's happening and the consultant, like a prospector, has to sift the good stuff from the worthless. It is an interesting field in which you are constantly reminded of what you don't know.

pawnking said...

Thanks for the insight, Michael. I have noticed, similar to Mark Twain, that my father gets wiser as I get older.

To one of your points, he has a saying "Technology tells you what can happen. Economics tells you what should happen. Politics tells you what will happen." The reason a manager might have for not doing something might be political, and it might be a great reason, and you ignore it to your peril.

He learned early on that if the senior management (and the Board of Directors, shareholders, etc.) hasn't been prepared for change, they resist it. So in his presentations, he always addresses this, emphasizing that you absolutely have to consider the political climate of your organization before you can expect to be successful pushing change through. Since he works with a lot of governmental agencies, it's often literally politics he's talking about.

As you can tell, I'm weighing my career and considering my options. I hadn't thought of consulting, but it's something I've started to since spending the time with dad over the weekend.

Thanks again.