Why Consultants Fail

In my book, The Temp Job: A Survival Guide for the Contingent Worker, I stress how the relationship between you and your client is not the same as you and an employer. The risk involved in consulting is considerable – especially if your task involves bringing change to a mature organization.

Here’s one of the main reasons consultants fail:

I Can’t Lose Weight for You

In many ways, being a consultant is like being a personal trainer. As your trainer, I do want you to lose weight and get fit; but if you don’t follow any of my advice nor do any of the work, there’s not a lot I can do for you. I’m still here, and I’m still billing you for my time, but instead of making progress, you’re crying about how you can’t fit into any of your clothes. Worse: Now you have an attitude! You’ve spent a whole bunch of money, aren’t losing weight, and that’s because I’m not a good trainer!

Consultants aren’t the only ones who deal with the unwillingness of others to change. Very often, companies hire employees to be their internal “experts.” These employees are tasked with implementing change, and take a consultative-approach to help the company modernize and upgrade.

Unfortunately companies, much like individuals, mis-over-estimate their desire and their capacity for change.

Depending on the maturity-level of the organization that miscalculation could be as harmless as a few missed deadlines because decisions were not made in a timely manner, or as significant as a corporate proxy battle to remove the key stakeholder(s) of a transformation project.

In almost all scenarios, it’s the “change agent” who takes the fall. The business group or executive leadership rarely accepts responsibility for the lack of progress. In their mind, they hired you to help them lose weight, and they’re still fat. YOU failed to find the right solution for them. End of story. You pull out your spreadsheet of missed gym dates, point to the candy wrappers in the trash can, and remind them that you are indeed there to help, but you cannot lose weight for them. This doesn’t exactly sink in if the client thinks that shopping for yoga pants is the same as going to yoga class.

No one wants to feel that they are bad at their job. No matter what your circumstance, employees and consultants alike grow weary of being blamed by the fat and lazy for the fact that they are fat and lazy. Ultimately, we either resign ourselves to the job of handing you tissues and peanut butter cups, or we move on to a more committed client.

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Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

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