I'm Sorry I Broke Your Company: When Management Consultants Are the Problem, Not the Solution 6/6

Part 5.

How to Think Without Consultants

Management Is NOT a Science

  • Taylor (we all know him) led way to the idea that businesses can monitor, measure and optimise their way to success.

  • Management is NOT a science because objects in science (i.e. what you manage) behave according to the laws of nature as they have no will.

  • Clearly, people are irrational in this or that way, so the group of people may cancel something out, but won’t be perfect on any front.

  • As a result, belief in M&As, process reengineering, exec compensation driving performance don’t stand scrutiny when shown the failed outcomes. It’s always the process, not the principle, that’s at fault.

  • Business is not different from life, it is life.

  • Working with humans is more productive than working against humans (i.e. treat them as machines).

  • Forcing tasks on people no longer works [MK: … and has never meaningfully worked other than in the army-like environments].

How to Think Better

  • [MK: Personally, that’s the only question that keeps me awake at night.]

  • Taylorism tried separating thinking from work. [MK: Arguably, this approach is the major weakness of the command-and-control type of organisations.]

Thinking exercise 1: strive to enhance humanity

  • Assumption: if the building blocks of organisations are people, improving the people —> improving the organisations.

  • Improve relationships. In particular – across different functional areas. Replacing relationships with paperwork and ratings doesn’t work. [MK: this is a huge challenge in the COVID and post-COVID world.] Learning from a human is different than learning from a document. Honesty makes problems far more visible. Using consultants to communicate on behalf of employees is very expensive.

  • Improve judgement or expand thinking. Better info, more insight, clearer reports. Strategic planning and metrics help here, but only as supplements to judgement, not a replacement.

  • Create an environment that helps employees enjoy life. [MK: but don’t make this the key reason why people want to work for your company.] Improves business outcomes via customer, community and shareholder relationships. In the long run keeping costs low may not be the best way to save money due to increased defects, absenteeism and lack of upward feedback.

  • Strive to make life better for your customers. Good products make life better for customers, and you can’t make good products with demotivated workforce. Attempting to shift the conversation to the highest profitability [and cost optimisation] leads companies to decline. Adding value to the world has a better chance of adding value to the company.

Thinking exercise 2: use another context / try this at home

  • Will this program/initiative be effective in a different aspect of life?

  • As a bare minimum, try projecting the business initiative on the family environment; if this doesn’t hold – someone’s in trouble.

Thinking exercise 3: mean what you say and say what you mean

  • Some business folks believe business issues and solutions are not the same as human issues and solutions.

  • Business lingo – “living document”, “burning platform”, “holding people’s feet on fire”, etc. Jargon makes things look different from what they are.

  • (sorry for stealing too much material, but this is gold) Don’t be surprised if you don’t know how to achieve the action on the right.

  • Create a future vision == predict the future and make it a reality.

  • Business process reengineering == improve the way people work.

  • SMART goals == take the goal you want to achieve and change it to something else.

  • Incentive compensation == manipulate people through the use of money.

  • Performance management system == improve individual and team work.

  • Poor performance == incompetence or poor fit.

  • Leadership development == process to create a leader.

  • Core competence == job skills. [MK: true for a person, for a company it can be a competitive advantage]

How to think about hiring a consultant

  • May be useful in projects, which are not part of the normal operations.

  • Companies tend to follow the advice they pay for (or have a fresh perspective).

  • Lose-lose: clients have hidden agendas or neglecting their responsibilities, including thinking!

  • Help with overcoming corporate hierarchy to provide objective advice.

  • Can be a conduit across levels or silos (quite an expensive one).

  • Focus on work without distraction on past projects.

  • When things don’t go according to the consultants’ plans – they try doing the same thing harder.

  • Bad consultants never share their assumptions. [MK: sadly, I’ve paid a lot to learn this lesson]