What can we learn from consultants that make miracles happen? (revised)

The longer a man’s fame is likely to last, the longer it will be in coming.

Arthur Schopenhauer

This post is about miracle consultants in the realm of organizational behaviour.  First, I shall start with a few words about miracle consulting. Pretty much in the same way that man invented God, insatiable needs have invented miracle consulting.

I myself used a series of miracle consultants when my late wife was very ill. We went from one miracle consultant to another, until she died. One consultant analysed finger nails, another touched her feet and another waved his hands over her stomach. I felt like a character in one of Camus’ novels; I was doing something I did not believe in, but I did it “nevertheless”.

There is a huge market to address needs which cannot be satisfied! This is the context of the miracle organizational consultant.

There are many types of consultants to be found all over organizations, who often at cross-purposes or in a non-coordinated fashion, due to turf wars and politics. Training hires “skill trainers”; HR hires (compliant)vendors to implement people processes and non-strategic changes, while  senior management hires strategic consultants and/or people who they have trusted for many years. These consultants often feel threatened by miracle consultants, but there is nothing to fear. There are no miracles.

These miracle consultants are either hired by the CEO, or the Board may have “inserted” these consultants in the “spirit of cronyism” . The miracle consultant comes like a bird, flies over, dumps, and flies off.

The miracle consultant has a magic bullet, a series of buzzwords, false hope and a satchel of promises. They may be called organizational architects, organizational magicians, organization energizers, organizational monks and “organizational free thinkers”. These folks charge a very large fee to elaborate truths and insights.

Here is a bit of context which may allow us to understand the appearance and disappearance of these consultants.

1) There is magic to be found in the addictive quick fix which the miracle consultant promises.

2) Often these miracle consultants “blame” something/someone else and absolve the CEO from responsibility.

3) These wonder consultants often have built up such a brand name that senior management believes that “they cannot be wrong”.

Miracle consultants disappear very quickly. The messiah is proclaimed false very soon after a few sermons. A lecture, a month, or until the second or third invoice arrives.

The appearance of miracle consultants often indicate deep despair, stupidity and denial at the top, or all three.

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11 thoughts on “What can we learn from consultants that make miracles happen? (revised)

  1. Consultants are invited in to be of some help. There are variations on that theme, as you say, Allon. One variation that I find curious and interesting is when a well known brand (e.g. Disney or GE) is invited into an organization that is in a completely unrelated industry. An example of this would be a healthcare organization that has decided to implement the “Acme”* Six Sigma process (*I am using the fictional “Acme” as a stand-in for a well known brand). If it worked for Acme (in say aerospace), it’ll work for us (in say a hospital). Does such logic make sense?

  2. When I was beginning consulting, I cannot count the number of consultants (mostly grey-haired, white men) that I lost jobs to because they said, “I can fix all your problems!” Couldn’t bring myself to lie like that; oops, still can’t – LOL. But fortunately, I now avoid the clients who believe them.

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