Consulting Wisdom

If you visited Amazon’s consulting book list today you would have found that I have 5 of the top 25 books on consulting, and, oh yes, the Number One in the country (the third edition of Getting Started in Consulting).

These listings are quite dynamic, and I won’t hold onto #1 consistently, but I almost always have five books up there someplace, because I’ve written more books for solo practitioners than anyone else in history. I think that’s because of my philosophy: I strive for volume, not accuracy. (I wanted to see if you’re paying attention.)

A few of the readers’ reviews are not complimentary (my books average 4.5 stars of 5) because they think I’m arrogant (viz.: they either can’t write like I write or can’t understand what I write). Everyone’s a critic on Amazon. Nevertheless, the books do well enough, and the fourth edition of Million Dollar Consulting, appearing in the fall, will probably see the 200,000th sale of that book alone. Not bad when you consider that I believe there are only about 250,000 serious (e.g., not “between jobs”) solo consultants in the US, and maybe twice that number globally.

I share all of this because this profession has zero barriers to entry, which is both wonderful and depressing. The way to tilt your plate toward the wonderful side is to keep growing and developing. I’m weary of conferences in the profession which feature concurrent sessions on how to charge by the hour (calculate your lifestyle expenses, divide by available hours, and there’s your rate—you might as well just slit your wrists now). If there is such a thing as “unintellectual property,” you’ll find it in the literature surrounding this profession, with retread articles on six points to make a point, or how to use the telephone, and so on. One “expert” with a big name actually was also advertising his used luggage for sale at one point. (He also had published a plagiarized book.) If you’re successful, do you really have to sell your household goods?

You don’t have to agree with me or anyone else, but you do have to understand what I and a few learned others are really talking about. Then you have the right to disagree. Frankly, if you’re starting out in this profession and haven’t read Getting Started in Consulting, or if you’re a veteran and haven’t read Million Dollar Consulting, then you’re just kidding around. It’s like majoring in psychology and not taking the 101 course. You don’t have to like it or agree with it, I suppose, but you must have the grounding.

There are free articles, checklists, and tools on, which you are welcome to download. There are print, video, and audio resources here on this blog which is free. You can read postings from my global community at without joining it (you just can’t post unless you join). I frequently speak for free at various National Speakers Association Chapters (Los Angeles recently, New Jersey on May 15, Oklahoma on May 9, Dallas on June 13) where the admission price they charge is quite low.

There is a lot of data out there that many of you can turn into information. Synthesizing the information into knowledge takes experience and help. And utilizing knowledge until it’s innate wisdom it harder still.

It’s a great time to be a consultant. It’s even a better time to be a great consultant. What are you doing to accelerate your progress down that path?

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “Consulting Wisdom

  1. Hi Alan,
    I wonder if you might have an electronic copy of your Annotated Bibliography in “Process Consulting” that you could make available? I’m planning on copying the list for reference and start working through the list. I was going to either scan it or, the old fashion way, by hand. It struck me that you might have an e-version and in addition it would be great to link them to amazon. Perhaps many others would find this valuable as well.
    If you have a copy, I’d be glad to add the hyperlinks and return it to you.
    Thanks, Tim
    ps. Thanks again for you latest “Getting Started”

  2. Sorry, I no longer have the files handy and I’m not going to rummage through the safety deposit box! You’ll have to scan or copy by hand, or hire someone to do it for you. Or, buy a second copy and rip the pages out!! (Seriously, sorry I can’t be of more help.)

  3. Here’s a bibliography from the Million Dollar Consulting® College:


    Argyris, Chris, Integrating the Individual and the Organization,
    Wiley & Sons, 1964.
    A prolific writer and pre-eminent psychologist, this is his
    work on combining positive team-building with individual
    well-being to create improved performance.

    Bellman, Geoffrey, The Consultant’s Calling, Jossey-Bass, 1990.
    One of the philosophic books on consulting you should read. Geoff focuses on the philosophy and values of the profession.

    Bennis, Warren and Nanus, Burt, The Unconscious Conspiracy,
    Amacom, 1976.
    The original and still best work by Bennis on leadership, sub-
    titled, “Why Leaders Can’t Lead.” Everything else he’s done is
    really a variation of this work. “Leaders are made” philosophy.

    Drucker, Peter, Managing in the New Society, St. Martin’s Press,
    A series of essays, each on highly provocative topics which demonstrate that he’s still on top of his game in his 90s.

    ____________,The Effective Executive, Harper & Row, 1966.
    The only person who makes my list twice. This is still a
    powerful work, and probably his best.

    Fiedler, Frederick, A Theory of Leadership Effectiveness, McGraw-
    Hill, 1967.
    The champion, perhaps, of the contingency theory approach
    to leadership.

    Gabor, Andrea, The Capitalist Philosophers, Time Books, 2000.
    An extraordinary set of brief biographies, from Mary Parker Follet to Elton Mayo and Peter Drucker. This has been required reading in my graduate classes.

    Gardner, John, On Leadership, Free Press, 1990.
    Simply one of the best, most succinct writers on the subject.

    Gibson, James, et. al., Organizations, BPI/Irwin, 1988.
    A graduate-level, excellent text. Later versions are probably

    Gilbert, Tom, Human Competence, McGraw-Hill, 1978.
    Work carried on by Geary Rummler today. Focus on the
    performer as part of a stimulus-response dynamic.

    Jay, Antony, Management and Machiavelli, Bantum, 1967.
    Enjoyable and lucid discussion of politics and maneuvering
    in organizational cultures.

    Likert, Rensis, New Patterns of Management, McGraw-Hill, 1970.
    One of the toughest writers to comprehend, nevertheless his
    studies on leadership and performance led to some ground-
    breaking work at the University of Michigan.

    Mager, Robert, The Mager Library, Pittman Learning, 1984.
    If you haven’t read the collected—and insightfully funny—
    works of Mager, you aren’t educated in this industry.

    Maslow, Abraham, Motivation and Personality, Harper & Row,
    Classic work on hierarchy of needs and human motivation.

    McClelland, David, Human Motivation, Scott, Foresman, 1985.
    Need/achievement theory and connections to Maslow’s work.

    McGregor, David, The Human Side of Enterprise, McGraw-Hill,
    His classic work on Theory X and Theory Y.

    Sampson, Anthony, The Company Man, Times Business, 1995.
    A good history of companies, organizations and the reasons
    for their current structure.

    Schein, Edgar, Process Consultation, Addison-Wesley, 1969.
    Still the authority on process consultation.

    Schultz, Duane, and Schultz, Sydney Ellen, Psychology and
    Industry Today, Macmillian, 1990.
    A graduate-level text that’s clear and coherent. This is the
    fifth edition, and there is probably a newer one available.

    Taylor, Frederick Winslow, Scientific Management, Harper, 1911.
    This is a terrific book, by the “first” management consultant.
    A “must” read if you’re serious about the profession.

    Vroom, Victor, and Yetton, Philip, Leadership and Decision Making,
    University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973.
    More recent work is available, but this is their seminal book
    on situational leadership. It’s tough sledding. Often referred
    to as “normative” or “path/goal” theory.

    Weiss, Alan, Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Building A Practice, McGraw-Hill, 1992, 1998, 2002.
    Still my best-seller after all these years, now in its third edition.

    Zaleznik, Abraham, The Managerial Mystique, Harper & Row, 1989.
    One of the most vocal in terms of “leaders are born, not made.” A counterpoint to the work of Bennis.

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