Why I Don’t Consult

Generally speaking, I don’t consult.  Not that consulting is bad, persay; I have plenty of consultant friends and they haven’t spontaneously combusted yet, so I’m going to assume the gods are alright with it as an occupation.  But every time someone offers me a fat check to give them the answer to a question, I want to laugh.  Or hit them.  Or both.

Yes, I do want that check – money is nice and it does plenty of interesting things.  But most consultants are paid to parachute in with answers, instead of actually building solutions.  And though I’m not naturally a builder (I don’t particular revel in the feeling of creation), I do care about outcomes.  Which means that I either need to hand them off to a builder who understands why we’re building what we’re building or I need to build them myself.

Inevitably, consulting gigs feel to me something like the same repetitive story.  A client has a problem.  They invite me over to give a talk, or have lunch, or draw up some wireframes that solve that problem.  I give them the solution.  Twelve months later, I loop back and one of two things has happened:

1) They lost the political will because whoever was in charge of executing it didn’t actually own the process and it never got built.

2)  It got built, but whoever was in charge of the building missed out on the details because they weren’t involved in the ideation, and so it is bolted together wrong and now helps nobody.

These would potentially not be problematic outcomes, except that I don’t take gigs unless I actually care about the project itself.  Which means I want to fix the problem that the client presented.  Which means that finding out that they didn’t fix the problem, despite having the right solution handed to them, invokes that feeling you get just after you slam your head against a wall.  Do that enough times and you’ll stop trying to solve things, and I LIKE solving things.  I WANT to be motivated.

Things get done when people are responsible for them and care enough to make them cross the finish line (often dragging them kicking and screaming through the details, because that’s the only way things get done).  Rather than endlessly hiring consultants to opine, it seems vastly more worthwhile to hire builders or to empower your internal builders to work directly with outside ideation resources (who yes, may be consultants, but only of the long-term variety) until the project is actually launched at scale.