Monthly Archives: May 2007

Why OD Consulting Can Get So Boring

A participant in the most recent Million Dollar Consulting™ College asked me what I have seen most often in my OD consulting work. This was in response to my statement that I had reduced that work because I was getting bored seeing mostly the same things over and over, and I ran the risk of resolving the issues in 12 seconds, thereby totally annoying the client.

I told him there were probably 11 things, he dared me to list them, so here they are. Ask yourself how many times you’ve seen these or variations. In no particular order:

1. Someone really should be fired, but the client refuses to do so “on my watch” and insists on ridiculous coaching and training which won’t help at all.
2. A survey turned up “communications issues” or a “morale problem” or some other sort of generic ambiguity.
3. The client is turned on to some fad or academic’s book, and wants to move the organization “from good to great” or become “shareholder value-driven” or “world class.”
4. Strategy isn’t being supported because no one has bothered to communicate it, and/or gain the commitment of managers, and/or provide the skills to implement it.
5. Succession planning and career development are not at all related, as if they are different languages operating in different climates.
6. There is no common process or rational basis for decision making, or innovation, or problem solving, etc.
7. Planning and strategy are all bollixed up, one killing the other.
8. Strategy and tactics are constantly confused, causing people to trip over each other without leaving their seats.
9. Things aren’t getting done because accountabilities haven’t been established and/or there are inappropriate rewards and punishments in place.
10. The organization is trying to build teams when it actually has committees, an entirely different species.
11. The leader is not serving as the exemplar.

You don’t need complex models or convoluted processes to resolve these issues. You need a large stick and a megaphone, metaphorically speaking.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Last night, at the Miss Universe contest in Mexico City, the audience apparently booed when Miss USA was being interviewed as one of the finalists. Perhaps we’ve been too unfair to Mexico? Not spending enough tourist dollars? Too hard on illegal immigration?

It takes guts, of course, to boo a beauty contestant. If Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe pageant, had any guts, he would have announced that the event would never be in Mexico again and that bigotry is bigotry, no matter which side of the border you’re on.

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Honoring Those Who Have Served

On this Memorial Day in the U.S. I’d like to add my respect to the memory of those whom Lincoln described as giving “their last full measure of devotion.” Rest in Peace.

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Solid Growth in Consulting Revenues Forecast

The May 25 editon of “Consultants News” from Kennedy Publications notes that the overall management consulting market is doing well, and they expect single-digit growth through 2009. Within that overall picture, healthcare consulting is exceeding general market growth and is expected to produce over $30 billion in consulting revenues by 2010.
(Kennedy Publications, 1 Phoenix Mill Lane, Peterborough, NH 03458. Subscriptions: 603/924-0900 x625. Mention my name.)

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The Value of Simplicity

Consulting is about simplicity, not complexity. Whenever a client says to me, “But that’s just common sense!” I feel exhilarated.

Most clients, in essence, say, “It hurts when I do this.” I tell them, “Stop doing that. That will be $35,000.” Or: “I’m uncomfortable when I go there.” Then: “Stop going there. That’s $50,000.” And, often: “I’m convinced he can’t do the work, but he’s a great guy, and it’s on my watch. Will you help him?” Response: “No, I’m here to help you, remember? Fire him. It’s for his own good as well as yours. Oh, and that will be $125,000.”

Sometimes that conversation takes a month, but often it takes only a day.

Please don’t tell me you’ve got the most unique sales improvement system in the world. I assure you, you don’t. Do not claim that feedback indicates you’re the finest presenter in existence on your topic, possessing Gnostic wisdom. No fears, you’re not and you don’t. Never purport to have the “key” to team building, or leadership development, or strategic thinking, or dog walking. Trust me, you don’t even have the key ring.

Not that any of that matters. What matters is improving the client’s condition, and that is usually frightfully easy, despite the tropism of consultants to follow the convoluted.

While speaking to an executive vice president of a major insurance company in New York about helping the company with a post-merger culture change, he asked what messages they should include in their communications strategy. I told him, “Nothing.”

He almost fell off his chair, and his subordinates began to move away from me. “What do you mean by that?” he asked, incredulous.

“Well, do you know which offices you’ll close?”
“No, we have a task force working on that, it’s complicated.”

“Do you know which benefits package you’ll implement?”
“No, our benefits experts are evaluating costs.”

“Have you decided which officers will head which new divisions?”
“No, that’s very political and a board-level discussion.”

“So, you have nothing to tell anyone, do you? Just listen. Ask them to tell you what’s on their minds, what their suggestions are, and what they need. Respond to what you can, and simply acknowledge the rest and thank everyone. That’s your strategy.”

“Listen and not speak. That’s counterintuitive! It’s great!”

“I’m glad you like it. That will be $250,000.”

And it was.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Consulting Opportunity

We are seeking:
An HR person with experience staffing rapid growth boutique professional service firms (background to also include McKinsey, Big-4 or similar).
Respond to:
Steve Rabin MBA CPA CITP
(408) 887-6433 cell

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Consulting Opportunity

Customer Service Trainer Wanted
ProEdgeSkills, Inc. is expanding and needs a customer service enthusiast to conduct training programs. Go here: for details on qualifications, application process, and contact information. Position is subcontractor.
Mary Sandro
ProEdge Skills, Inc.
Be A Cut Above
Customer Service and Presentation Skills Training

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Co-Opting the Huckleberry

Here’s a line I used yesterday in opening a speech with 70 harried, type A executives: “You will have those cell phones and Huckleberries with you for the rest of the day and, probably, the rest of your lives. You only have me for the next 59 minutes. I’ve already been paid. I suggest you make me your priority and I assure you I’ll make it worthwhile.” Not one person left the room to make or take a call, and no thumbs were didling away on the PDAs. We need to take the offensive with this stupidity.

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The Agony of Human Resources

I’ve worked with a handful of terrific human resources executives over the years, and they are remarkable in their scarcity. All of the outstanding ones sought me out—to my good fortune—because HR is not a place I go softly into the good night.

All of the current bloviating about a “seat at the table” and the “strategic nature of HR” is just that: gaseous evasion. Every time I get a call from an HR person telling me she has been “tasked” to find “venders” and “you’ll work through me or not at all,” the experience just supports my belief that consultants should be permitted to pack. (No, I don’t mean for trips.)

Let me ask you something: How many HR executives can you name who were promoted to CEO of their company from that position? I’ve seen vice presidents of sales, marketing, actuarial services, European operations, and scores of others ascend to the top job. I’ve seen general counsels and CFOs promoted to CEO.

It just doesn’t happen in HR. It doesn’t happen because the department has been marginalized and rationalized. It’s the place where companies park females and minorities to show how diverse they are, rather than give them positions running sales, manufacturing, R&D, operations, and so forth. It’s the area where people are sent whom the company doesn’t know what else to do with. Why would anyone spend a career in HR? It’s like a career shoveling mist.

The transactional aspects of HR have been, correctly, outsourced. The transformational aspects are the main reasons there is so much work for external consultants. HR departments can’t get it done. They have very little credibility and quake at the sound of the footsteps of a real executive.

Consider this: HR and their training brethren are spending fortunes (in excess of $40 billion annually, I believe, according to the American Society for Training and Development) on training programs from training venders. People march through these courses like lemmings, with virtually no metrics or measures of whether there is actual improvement on the job. In fact, you’ll find an occasional article in Training Magazine or the ASTD Journal from an HR department or training vender THAT MEASURES REALLY AREN’T THE POINT!

No, I guess the check clearing the bank is the point. Or, perhaps, that grid that shows how many people have been trained in how many courses, irrespective of job performance or improvement.

Is this too difficult a set of questions: Has performance improved? Is the customer better served? Do we have more business? People generally ask these questions when they buy fax machines or long distance phone plans, but not, apparently, when people are trained. In fact, HR is still in love with “four levels” of measure which Don Kirkpatrick discussed 50 years ago, and three of them don’t matter, because they are related to participant reaction and attitude, not behavior change.

HR is rewarded for staying within budget and treating people as venders to be squeezed. They are generally uninvolved in, and even unaware of, corporate strategy. On the other hand, line executives are rewarded for results, of course, and treat consultants as partners to help them make progress toward strategic goals. They find money if the ROI makes sense.

If you’re in the consulting business, don’t get involved in the HR department. If you do, you’ll never be perceived as a peer of the true buyers. And if you don’t get involved, you can go directly to the real buyers. Don’t worry, HR won’t “subvert” your project if it’s approved. If the buyer says to do it, they’ll fall all over themselves getting behind it.

That is, if they’re not too engaged in left brain/right brain, ENTJ, diversity, accelerated learning, stewardship training programs.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Yankees and the Bible

At church yesterday the priest commented on the deacon’s homily, which included St. Stephen being stoned.

“If those were Yankee pitchers,” he said, “St. Stephen would be alive today.”

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