A Consultant Did It

An independent consultant at CERN from June to December 1980 proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing of information among researchers and built a solution. When he returned to CERN in 1984 he saw an opportunity to join his hypertext solution with the Internet:

"I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web."

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the world wide web and a consultant.

One of my pet peeves on consulting engagements is to hear another consultant say “Well I’m just a consultant” and give up on delivering potentially great value to their client.  As a consultant, it is exactly the opposite. In fact, I like the following definition of consultant.

“One who engages in professional matters and advises and influences the client at the client’s request for a fee”

Now pick out the key words in that sentence. ( no the most important word is NOT Fee)

  • Professional – You are not there to do something that just anyone can do. A professional has standards of skill, is competent, properly qualified and experienced.
  • Advises – What is the best way to do this in your opinion.
  • Influences – Now that you have said it , convince your client why it is the best approach.
  • At the client’s request – They hired you because they value your advice and ability to get them to do the right thing.

Most consultants are professional, most provide advice (some even good advice) but very, very few understand their professional responsibility to influence their client to adopt the right approach.

Let’s assume that the client hires you to do an assessment of their current database implementation, optimize it and get better performance. A Bad consultant reviews it, fixes it and makes it go faster. An excellent consultant reviews it, fixes it, works to influence the client so that the best practices become part of the client’s environment so they don’t get in the same mess again AND makes it go faster both now and the future. That’s a professional.

To put it in perhaps more succinct terms. Assume you are a doctor. Your patient comes in coughing. Ah, you investigate and determine your patient has initial sign of Emphysema. You prescribe medication and send them on their way. – BAD DOCTOR

Assume you are a doctor. Your patient comes in coughing. Ah, you investigate and determine your patient has initial sign of Emphysema. You prescribe medication, you say “STOP SMOKING OR YOU WILL DIE!” , prescribe stop smoking aids, schedule follow-up verifications and send them on their way. – GOOD DOCTOR

We are professionals. We should be bound by the same professional ethos that does not allow us to ignore our responsibility to influence our clients as to what is the right approach.

Tim Berners-Lee could have said “I am just a consultant, they won’t care” but he didn’t. He influenced and inspired those around him to invest and fund the development of one of the most important technologies of the century.

Learn how to influence …

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One Response to A Consultant Did It

  1. Pingback: Infinite Shades of Grey – A year later and a little greyer | Infinite Shades of Grey

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