Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Fresh Eyes

An accurate way to describe many consulting projects is to say that the client wanted some fresh eyes to examine a situation. They'd already studied it to death but the people doing the looking were insiders and each brought certain assumptions and biases. They suspected that an outsider might be able to do three things:

  1. Spot the problem; 
  2. Talk about it; and
  3. Recommend some practical solutions.
Why talk about it? There are cases where people think they know what the problem is, but no one wants to talk about it. They sense that candor might be rewarded with a quick ticket to Siberia or that it will put them on someone's "Eventually Get Revenge" list. In such situations, they clam up. They don't want to get ambushed ten years from now over a never-forgotten slight.

Far better to let an outside consultant take the blame. Who knows? He or she might come up with a practical solution that no one has considered. Of course, that's the main reason for the engagement: results. And an experienced consultant may well be able to achieve them without creating hard feelings.

Getting there is a story in itself. I've worked on plenty of projects where the client's team thought the problem was A, but it was really A plus G. Then again, perhaps A and G had nothing to do with it but were mere symptoms. The elusive Z was the root cause.

Gray hair, wrinkles, and a few scars can help to craft a serious solution but in order to grasp reality in the first place, it is important to have fresh eyes.

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