Monday, September 24, 2007

When Management Won't Hear the Truth: A Dialogue

A consultant writes: "I find that when I tell management the truth of what a task will take, they can't hear it. In fact, my diagnosis has sometimes meant the end of the interview. But it seems to me if I take a job without giving them my honest assessment, then I'm signing up to do something I can't do."

Jerry: I've often had this experience, with several different outcomes:

1. I don't get the job.

2. I get the job because, they say, "you're the only one who told us the truth."

3. They say, "Look, we just want to get CMMI certified. [or whatever] Show us the minimum we can do to fool the assessors." I leave.

4. I don't get the job. Somebody else lies to them, and X months later, they client comes back to me and says, "They lied to us, and it didn't work the way they said. You told us the truth, so we want you." Sometimes I come back. Sometimes I'm too busy. But if I come back, they're much better listeners the second time.

The consultant also wrote: "Another consultant, working for a large firm, told me that in some cases they do whatever the client wants and don't let it bother them if it blows up. They send an invoice, say 'well, we did what you wanted,' and move on. But I can't imagine myself taking this route, either. I'd like to know how other people deal with situations like this."

Jerry: You could do this if you had employees on the payroll that you had to farm out on billable hours. That's why I never had employees who had to be billed out, and why I always kept up my personal savings so that I, myself, didn't have to be billed out. Like you, I could never say, 'well, I did what you wanted,' and therefore could never work for a company that did. So, I'm not dependent on a company, and no employees are dependent on me. That's essential if I'm to be an honest consultant, and that's important to me.

The consultant further wrote: "Currently, I'm taking a university course called 'Ethical Decision Making for Leaders.' Our first paper is to be a case study of an ethical dilemma we've faced in our careers. I chose to discuss a job in which I was hired as project manager over a troubled product line, only to realize far too late that those in power did not want a solution as much as they wanted an excuse. My group and I were making some real positive change when I was tarred, feathered, and run out of town -- not by the systems engineers and consultants who had to deal with the angry customers (they loved what we were doing), but by the management in R&D above me. That company no longer exists -- a huge company acquired what was left. The incompetents at the top most responsible moved over to executive positions at the acquiring company. Over two-thirds of the rest lost their jobs at the time when the IT industry tanked (about five years ago).

Jerry: That's usually the (wrong) way these things are handled--bottom up--probably because it's the executives who are making the deal.

Finally, the consultant says: I've been through experiences similar to this so many times that I've wondered whether I'm really cut out for this kind of consulting work.

Jerry: The fact that you've weathered these situations means that you're as cut out for this kind of consulting work as much as anyone. Over time, you may get better at seeing these situations coming, so you don't get hooked into so many of them. That's one of the big things I'm trying to teach my readers. And a big part of being able to do this is financial independence.

Thanks for letting me quote you on my Secrets of Consulting blog. This is one of a handful of really essential topics for consultants of all kinds.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blatant Advertising

Some readers of The Computer Consulting Kit's recent post on the "Working Conditions Thread" may see it as blatant advertising for their meta-consulting service (consulting about consulting). Those readers are right.

Some readers may see blatant advertising of consulting services as somehow distasteful or immoral. Those readers are wrong.

CC Kit's services seem heavily focused on marketing yourself as a consultant. They are right on target. Most consultants who fail, fail because of inadequate marketing. They somehow feel that clients should just seek them out as if by magic.

Warning: Blatant Advertising Ahead: Those consultants who feel that way should (buy and) read my book, The Secrets of Consulting. Then they should probably take a look at the CC Kit website, and any other marketing advice they can find.

But only if they want their consulting business to be successful.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Introducing New Technology: Agile Methods

It's one thing for a consultant to have great ideas that would help your clients. It's quite another to actually help those clients actually implement those ideas.

I've recently been interviewed by PM Boulevard about introducing agile methods. They asked me five questions:

Why use Agile methods?

What is the biggest challenge of implementing Agile methods?

In what environment will Agile be most successful?

What is the future of Agile?

What other information source about Agile do you find interesting or intriguing right now?

On the same site, you can also read answers to these same five questions by David Anderson and Steve McConnell. Check it out: PM Boulevard