We consultants get hired for all sorts of reasons, not all of them initially obvious. Sometimes we’re hired …
… to solve a problem. This is probably what we’re most used to expecting.
… to confirm there is a problem. This is a weird one and there’s always more to the story. Perhaps not all the stakeholders agree there is even a problem. Or maybe they disagree on what it is.
… to validate a solution already on the table. The internal folks either aren’t confident they have the right approach or they aren’t confident they can get internal support for it without validation from a third-party.
… to INvalidate a solution already on the table. This is another weird one where there’s always more to the story, but in this case it’s usually that there’s some disagreement among the internal stakeholders and they’re looking to get it settled.
… to provide cover for a buyer … that is on their way out. As in you’re getting hired to assist with something important so they can step out without feeling like they’re completely leaving in a lurch.
… to go up against the buyer. i.e. to speak truth to power
… to implement a solution that has already been predefined (either internally or by another consultant). If we’re just the implementer, it’s generally good to try to learn why they didn’t implement it for them. Maybe the implementer doesn’t do implementation. Maybe they started but failed to complete the job. Maybe they were fired by the client. Maybe they ran away … Also not a bad idea to make sure we’re comfortable with the solution.
… to improve upon an already defined solution. This is fine, but generally wise to poke it a bit and be honest if we think the solution needs more than just some tweaks.
… to possibly provide some inadvertent gossip on the competition. This is unlikely even though we may work for competing clients at times, since we’re professionals and treat the things we learn while working with a client in confidence. But it doesn’t stop people from trying.
These different types of situations make our work a mixture of humorous and intellectually stimulating as well emotionally draining and frustrating – depending on the day, our perspective, and our original expectations. But either way, it’s important to properly assess every situation we are diving into – or have already stepped inside of – and make sure we’re looking closely at what’s below the surface.
I constantly work at making fewer assumptions about a situation and the people involved. My best countermeasure is asking more questions.
This business is probably one half problem solving and one half sizing up people. And even there I’m probably being presumptuous.