Jeremy Smith's blog

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Hiring Consulants to Do Your Project Does Not Remove Your Accountability for Its Failure

How consultants are cashing in on pure incompetence

Oh how I have witnessed this myself.

Pulling a quote from the article:

I'm not saying that all consultants are charlatans. Neither is it unreasonable for businesses to call in experts for projects which require specialist knowledge, such as the installation of a computer system. But when retailers start hiring consultants to do the retailing, you've got to wonder.

In a letter to the US business magazine, Fortune, an American executive, Charles Yarham, explained the remarkable boom in consultancy.

"If you initiate a project on your own and it succeeds, well, that's your job. If the programme fails, it's your neck. However, if you hire a consultant and the project succeeds, it's a feather in your cap. If the project fails, you have a consulting firm to blame. After all, they're the experts."

I think of this as symptomatic of the growing trend to consolidate power, decision-making, and discretionary budget use higher and higher up the chain of command. But what is not flowing along with it is the accountability. Because, as was quoted above, "if you hire a consultant and the project succeeds, it's a feather in your cap... if the project fails, you have a consulting firm to blame."

a) I think this is a terrible trend. b) If we have to go down this dark path, the accountability should flow upwards with everything else. If one hires a consulting firm to do something, and that consulting firm overprices, under-delivers, exceeds the time table, or otherwise fails in any way, the person who hired that consulting firm should be held directly accountable. If a manager is not knowledgeable enough to not be able to see through consultants' and marketers' BS, they shouldn't be working in management. Or if the manager relied on the evaluations of his in-house specialists to evaluate consultants and the in-house staff chose poorly, they should be held accountable, too.

Hiring consultants to do a job should not remove accountability.

The other great quote from the article which is just an application and retread of a Machiavelli quote:

[The executive] having abnegated so much responsibility, how could he possibly be confident that what the consultants were telling him made sense?

Or, as Machiavelli put it: "A prince who is not himself wise cannot be wisely advised… good advice depends on the shrewdness of the prince who seeks it."