The usual story about consultants checking your watch and telling you what time it is, has preoccupied me for a while now…primarily because it’s often true. The presumption behind the story is that the client knows his issues well and doesn’t need any diagnostic. In fact, increasingly consultants don’t do diagnostic or analysis any more, at least not officially and primarily because clients don’t want to pay for this service. From what you hear from consultants these days, they seem to take the description of the problem without any discussion and get straight into the socialisation of a solution and stakeholder management.
Really? Do we go to the doctor and expect him to prescribe medicine without any consultation? Do we go to the garage and expect the mechanic to magically pronounce what’s wrong with our car without running some tests and importantly listening to the symptoms? Do we go to our lawyer and expect him to take some action without an explanation of what the case is? To be a bit catholic for a second, do we go to the priest and ask for forgiveness in confession without outlining what we’ve done?
More to the point, doesn’t the act of diagnosis actually improve the result? In many cases, explaining the situation through some intelligent questioning is the most critical process…it leads to greater clarity about the issue, it oftens forces one to re-examine the situation more critically and dispassionately, and it therefore starts the journey of finding the right solution. Note, I don’t say the ‘best’ solution…that is something which exists only in text books written in a sort of post dated, post rationalised, case study perspective which conveniently ignores the messy, disruptive and chaotic reality of getting to something that’s acceptable.
One of the reasons why knowledge management databases don’t work is precisely because the person reading the solution has not done the diagnostic. How can you trust a solution if you’ve not been involved in finding it? You’ll hear things like, “my client’s needs are different”, “they are very unique”, “the circumstances were unusual”. All of these things could be correct…however the reality is, as anyone involved in our dodgy profession knows, unless our client has been actively involved in describing and then finding the solution, they will not ‘buy-in’.
Part of the issue with our strange line of work is that, like a portrait painter, telling or showing the reality, is often a poor strategy for getting paid! However, if we are to maintain any sort of credibility, honesty, transparency and independence need to remain front and centre of how we act…and diagnosis forms a key part of that.