When looking for a solution to a challenge, there are so many variables to consider and so many options to choose from!
We all think we know what’s best in theory but when the dreaded time comes to make a final decision, everything we thought we knew become a pool of blurry/mushed information. To make things worse we realise that people close to us supporting our decision making process are not enough to give us clarity, maybe because they really don’t know enough or maybe because they’re biased (any future decisions affect them directly). It doesn’t really matter why because we still need to make a decision and therefore forced to look elsewhere for answers. Is it time to maybe say hello to our friendly neighbourhood consultant? Or… not?
What constitutes a friendly neighbourhood consultant?
From most consultants’ perspective, if you’re reaching out with a specific question you must have thought about it enough to lean towards a certain direction. So what’s wrong with giving a direct answer to your inquiry, discussing pricing that works and giving you what you want? At the end of the day, a consultant needs to make money too and complicating things might not result in cashie cash-cash.
So staying within a comfort zone, spending the least amount of time/cost and getting the most return out of each case is a dream come true and to each their own… If the person placing the inquiry doesn’t ask for more, why would you step up and complicate things?
Hmmm… here’s why – consulting in its core is neither coaching nor decision making. Due to the number of options one can choose for a specific case, consulting is more like an amazing journey of research/evaluation passed the limitations of the consultant’s network (since that’s where the proposed solutions will be derived from). Now if we can agree that this “limitation” presents a valid argument, how can one assume that the right decision was made only because it follows the direction of the one asking? Especially without considering what else could be done and adding value through the collection of more information and proper due diligence?
But there’s so many solutions/providers – when do we know it’s enough?
Irrespective of how many people/providers you talk to or how many solutions you note down, at some point your notes will become repetitive and present some very obvious characteristics:
Most solutions you noted down are of the same nature
When you browse through your notes, you will come to realise that the solutions (even though offered by different providers with minor differences) are the same in nature. So by giving them a definition or a name, you basically merge them under a specific category, a targeted solution. Once you realise this repetition, it’s time to take a step back and look into the following two traits.
The solutions complement each other
Although solutions are straight forward on their own, depending on the case’s requirements/limitations, when combined can form a better structure that fixes a short term challenge and at the same time offer a long term advantage that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. So not having enough options, limits your perspective into what else you might be able to pull off with minor tweaks or combos. Once you have a more complete picture, you’re almost done.
You’re able to identify the white noise (all “quick fix” options that would eventually lead in problems during actual operations)
There are so many cowboys in the crowd, presenting and selling and pitching stuff (some of them quite good at it actually) and if you’re not careful, you might make emotional decisions (rushing to fix your current problem by adding another one). You tend to forget the rationale of narrowing down, eliminating, choosing the lesser of few evils (because no business decision is actually perfect). Talking to a few people about the same issue, many times results in different answers that allow you to read between the lines.
Why do people give different answers, you may ask? Well like we said before, not everyone’s the same. Some will take your project face value and give a direct but still good service to what you want (so you’re limited by your own inquiry), some will take on your project and give temporary solutions to fix your current issue (knowing it’s a short term fix, in many cases with potentially irreparable future damages) and some will look into the overall picture and give side options/recommendations that make sense. In the end what matters is, whoever’s collecting this information (whether yourself or your friendly neighbourhood consultant), to be experienced enough to read between these lines.
Understood! Then what?
Once these three characteristics are in place, the first step is to identify from the bunch which solutions can actually work on the specific case. As we said above, the correct solutions are the same in nature, so even though you noted down 10 solutions, narrowing them down can result in only 2-3 defined options.
Now that you’ve identified the solutions that can actually work, you can start matching the information derived from the providers and begin the process of eliminating the “white noise”. If you carefully collected the information, you should be able to cross reference the questions/answers of different providers and identify question marks (???), future problems within the solutions they offer.
So where one provider pitched a solution as the answer to your prayers, another might have a different opinion on the matter, for his/her own reasons. The more questions/answers and the more providers you approach for the same option, the better the elimination process of this “white noise” will be. You now have a clearer path as to what can actually cause headaches down the line, even though it might fix a short term problem.
Important note: there’s no right or wrong in choosing a short term fix, as long as you are aware that it’s not going to last. What’s wrong is when a provider pitches this quick fix as a permanent solution. At the same time, if the provider is adamant about this solution (you now know otherwise), it tells you something about this provider as well and whether your interests are actually aligned.
Finally, once you’ve specified the solutions and eliminated the “white noise” (and potentially providers), with this research you allowed yourself to think outside the box and go a step further. All that is left is choosing to move ahead with the solution that fixes your current challenge correctly or combining some of the options and target a long term milestone that you didn’t even think of before this process.
So is your consultant a friendly neighbourhood Spiderman or a nameless villain?
The best consultants – where applicable – won’t give you direct answers/solutions to your challenges. They will provide options according to their experience and beyond, and collect information based on these options. They will not be afraid to add or even remove options they suggested in the first place as more information comes forward, thoroughly evaluate and narrow everything down. The final output will be an educated, researched process to work with and not wishful thinking or pulling emotional tantrums.
Some people are more knowledgeable than others but we’ve come to realise that no one is an “expert” in anything. We’ve seen a lot of “experts” over the years that opened/closed shops taking with them some of the integrity of the consulting business. Surely you must have crossed path with a few yourself.
Making the right choice is almost never (at least in the years that we’ve been consulting) the answer to the direct question you asked in the beginning. It’s very difficult for a good consultant to take on your project as is, knowing there could be better solutions to your case. Walking with such a partner down the path of deciding the future of your business, is most definitely a win because where everyone else keeps failing with inadequate information, you will always come on top with solid structures, targeted milestones and a stronger base to work with.
Food for thought (mostly for us) – Still not sure if we’re doing the right thing by being business oriented and not money-hungry hyenas like a lot of our peers but let’s face it, a leopard can’t change its spots and these are the cards we’ve been dealt with.
What cards are you dealing nowadays and what cards have you been dealt with?
#leopard #LeopardWithSpots #HyenasThatEatMoney #SpidermanSpidermanDoesWhateverASpiderCan
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