With the amount of jumping to conclusions that consultants do, you would think we would be the fittest occupation on the planet.
“Few people like problems. Hence the natural tendency in problem-solving is to pick the first solution that comes to mind and run with it. The disadvantage of this approach is that you may run either off a cliff or into a worse problem than you started with. A better strategy… is to select the best path from many ideas or concepts.” – James L. Adams, Conceptual Blockbusting
An inexperienced consultant tends to see only the parts of the problem that his or her favorite solution can address. Then, in a rush, they force the problem to fit their favorite solution. ( I am a Sharepoint consultant therefore you need this in a Sharepoint List with Workflow! or I am a C# developer so you need an custom ASP .NET application for this!)
This rarely works successfully and the results can be disastrous and can then lead to:
- Total failure of solution
- Resistance from client
- Total breakdown of relationship with client
- Loss of a customer
- Disintegration of both the consultant’s and related firm’s reputation
So how do you prevent this from happening?
Stick to the consulting process and don’t miss steps. A critical step in every engagement is envisioning. What are the possibilities? Your first conclusion may be right, but it may not be either. Worst case, it is better to find out now that your technology choice/skill set isn’t the right answer, than 2 months from now and the client is now angry. Take a look at the options and evaluate it, every time. You can influence your client to spend a little bit of extra time up front just to make sure that the direction you have chosen is in fact either the best solution or at least an acceptable one to meet their goals.
Let me provide an example.
In my blog A double cheese burger, extra large fries, and a small diet Coke I described a scenario where a consulting group jumped to a conclusion. They sold high availability solutions, therefore that is what their client “needed”. The symptom was a sporadic outage and the conclusion was “you need HA”. Now let’s look at this problem from a real envisioning exercise that is literally only an hour or two in length.
The problem space – what are the pieces and what do we see?
The analysis – putting some structure around the potential causes and associated answers
It takes very little effort to do a little envisioning on every engagement. What are the things that are not immediately obvious?
If you walk through it with your client and they eliminate items from scope, That’s fair. But if you never give them opportunity to have an opinion about it, that’s bad consulting. Very bad.
In this example, this issue was not resolved by the implementation of a $1 Million High Availability infrastructure because the consultants were:
Playing favorites, jumping to conclusions and the last idiom…. barking up the wrong tree.