Dirty Consultant Tricks – Hiding the Crystal Ball

Posted on October 3, 2012 by


Nearly four years ago we began the TAPUniversity Blog.  It’s been based on a mix of our training and consulting delivery.  The first topic was a top 10 things to do for contractors or consultants (or not do).  After a round of consulting assignments, in pharmaceutical and insurance, with other consultants alongside me, I observed three dirty consultant tricks:  hiding the crystal ball, chasing the hours and subletting in the marginal talent. They echo some of those early things to do.

Crystal Ball

Crystal Ball

This post concerns hiding the crystal ball and how to reveal it!

Hiding the crystal ball is an academic term.  It implies that a professor or researcher is hiding that final piece of how to, knowledge or wisdom to maintain mastery of their subject and subjects.  I witnessed this first hand by a few different consultants in the midst of a frantic sprint of effort.  My natural approach is to get the job done and help others learn how I did that job.  It’s called knowledge transfer.

That approach is not the norm, even in a delivery culture that has shifted toward open, Agile, sharing approaches.

To help reveal that crystal ball, even when the highly compensated consultant is unwillingly try the following.

  1. Incorporate interim deliverables, no more than two weeks apart.  This forces a little bit of exposing the “sausage making”.
  2. Resist and limit “PDF” deliverables only – get the source documents.  Also trace and find the source material for the “Big Consultants” approach.  I’m amazed at how frequently CobiT, Zachman’s Enterprise Architecture or an Agile Burn Down chart are cleverly tweaked into an ACME foundation approach.  Come on people! Are clients and other contractors not smart enough to use “Google” or have previous exposure or even friends to ask?
  3. Arrange stakeholder reviews.  The consultant(s) may blow you off – but typically not a high level stakeholder.
  4. While openness on your part is noble, sometimes you need treat fool according to their folly.  If there’s resistance in sharing avoid martyrdom by sharing too much yourself.
  5. Enforce and encourage use of your client’s network infrastructure and tools – not the consultants.  Channeling all communication from “ACME” consulting to “Client Y” when Client Y has available VPN, network accounts and tools (think SharePoint or Exchange) only allows ACME to control the relationship.  Demonstrate by using Client Y’s tools first and then educate your client on need for their control over ACME.

Those five steps are not without risk.  Several consulting companies have established and continued to maintain their market edge through controlling the  relationship with their client.  But in an ever increasing and fluid environment of information exchange, it has become a dinosaur and novelty of the past.