Consulting for Dummies

I’m told that this is an actual passage from the author and book listed below. Supposedly, he is using his “50 years of consulting experience” to instruct the reader on how to consult.

I’d say he’s 50 years (or more) out of date. You don’t bill by time units, you don’t find “solutions” (you create improved performance), and I respect my clients far more than to think they just want justification as to why they can’t accomplish things.

This is just enormously cynical, stupid, and wrong. That’s why you have to be careful about to whom you listen, and don’t equate years on the job with brains between the ears.

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The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully by Gerald M. Weinberg


12 thoughts on “Consulting for Dummies

  1. I don’t see a specific section you are referring to, but I am betting it is from his very short section about hourly billing.

    I first read this book about 20 years ago (it was originally published in 1985). The book was very helpful to me in dealing with many consulting situations. It was not helpful at all on the business side of consulting.

    I still find this and other Weinberg books useful. However, as I did a quick page through before I responded to this, I am surprised what a narrow segment of consulting these books actually cover, especially compared to your body of work.

    • That made me laugh ruefully since If I hadn’t discovered you, I am sure I would have been Just as Lost in the hourly billing morass.
      The more I understand value-based fees for improving performance, the more I understand how hourly rates are unethical.
      Thanks for your guidance.

      • It’s astounding that anyone claiming to be an expert in consulting can think and talk this way, AND get published. It’s a public disservice.

  2. Alan, would love to check it out and I don’t know what I’m getting wrong, but I can’t view the scan of the consulting book excerpt in any browser – just a picture placeholder. I also seem to be blocked from my usual login to your site and when I request a password reset, the site says the captcha code is unreadable. Regards, Peter.

    • It’s just the login that provides autocomplete of one’s personal details. No big deal. Still have access to everything.

      Thanks Alan!

  3. What the heck!

    I can’t believe someone would write that!
    It stinks of arrogance, hubris and absolute disrespect.

    I’d fire a guy who hired that guy!

    I’m genuinely shocked

  4. Accepting a consulting engagement believing, at the onset, that you cannot add value seems like taking a shortcut to a bad reputation (and maybe to writing books filled with bad advice).

    I’ve had clients that I was unable to help because of a variety of reasons (not being aligned with the decision-maker, my failure to hear what was really being said, underestimating the client’s constraints, etc.) but I cannot imagine wasting my limited time knowing I was working just to save a mythical, incompetent, middle-manager’s hide.

    The author seems to have a poor view of his chosen profession. What does this view say about how the author views his own value to his clients?

  5. Gerald ‘Jerry’ Weinberg is a respected name in the IT / software industry. While I don’t find all of his writing useful, anything from him that sounds stupid is probably not, and deserves investigation.

    So I opened up my copy of ‘The Secrets of Consulting’ from which this quote appears. Weinberg traces this law to a colleague of his who attributes it as one of ‘Sherby’s Laws of Consulting’

    (There are 3 laws comprising ‘Sherby’s Laws':
    1. In spite of what the client tells you, there is always a problem.
    2. No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.
    3. Never forget they’re paying you by the hour, not by the solution.
    )

    Anyway, the laws were meant to be attention-grabbing, and irrational sounding (and require a lot of explanation).

    Weinberg mentioned these laws in the context of recounting an incident where he presented these 3 laws to grab the attention of an audience that another consultant seems to have lost control of. It indeed grabbed their attention.

    I believe the 3rd law was to remind greenhorns consultant that it has been known to happen that a quick solution will make your client look incompetent to their boss. Be aware of such situations. Don’t always be in a hurry to deliver a quick solution because sometimes they won’t be appreciated.

  6. If he’s an “expert” in IT, then hourly billing is his mantra. I find that offering a solution immediately is irresponsible, but offering value immediately is a competitive advantage. Further, delaying solutions is entirely consistent with the hourly mentality one finds in IT.

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