5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Consultants Feeding at the Gates of Hell

I had a consultant fired from a very lucrative engagement during the tailend of a failed ERP engagement. I still remember his final words to me as he pondered the loss of easy money, “You would not be so cavalier if it was YOUR money”. The irony of those words sticks with me, as if he had the inside track on how to remedy a failed implementation that they screwed up very early on in the process. I was the only one trying to slam on the brakes and stop the flow of cash going into a money pit. The only thing I regret is not being able to ditch his ass sooner.

Why did they stand by as the train headed for the abyss?

Here are several reasons:

  1. They had a vested interest in keeping the golden son happy who was “managing” the implementation. When he said things were hunky dory who were they to question him. He did, after all, control the purse strings. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you. They were nothing more than a mouthpiece for the son instead of the gatekeepers at the edge of hell that we fell into.
  2. This particular consultant was like many – his time had come and gone. Everyone believes that experience necessarily connotates into an ability to solve problems regardless of the field of endeavor. That past stories of glory and success would miraculously turn a sows ear into silk.
  3.  He was out of his league and traded on taking input gathered from others, regurgitating it to anyone who would listen, and then charging $500 an hour for the “service”.
  4. Some consultants have become like the saying for teachers goes – those who can, do and those who can’t, consult. I question whether some of them could succeed in managing a real business on their own versus trying to tell others how things should be done.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many good consultants out there. Ones that add more value than you could hope for in many different areas. A good independent consultant who gives unbiased advice and is willing to stand by their convictions is worth their weight in gold. Those involved in what I described do not, and still don’t, belong in that group. They sold their souls for several ducats of gold, and the company burned through $5 million on a failed implementation. Consultants all the while singing the praises of a software package that was doomed to fail from day 1. Except in private conversations they would confirm that the entire project was a cluster f**k. Hey, at least they were honest some of the time!!

Lesson learned: beware of those with vested interest in a process which puts food on the table. When independence is compromised it is very easy to go flying off the cliff.

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