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Decision makers that don't trust their judgement

Here is an observation I've made not so long ago. In large stale companies whenever there is a problem, the least trusted are solutions from the internal people who actually know the details and are in the best position to come up with a solution.

Instead, a whole bunch of consultants will be brought in who's gonna talk to everybody and then relate the very same solutions to the management. And magically, the solution suddenly becomes noticed. In the worst case no consultants will appear, and the problem will persist.

Puzzled at such a setup, I've thought about it and it seems to me that all this boils down to the fact that a lot of times decision makers do not really trust their own judgement. They can't simply listen to what people are saying, and figure out if it's likely to make sense or not. Instead, they will try to avoid this at all costs and either end up "purchasing" some validated solution by paying consultants or just ignore the whole thing altogether.

It seems like perceptive sharp people can fairly easily spot other sharp people, and then there is not much need for lots of external validation. Of course, there aren't that many such people out there. The dominating mediocrity can't trust themselves with figuring out who to trust, and that is why there are so many examples when there are problems that aren't fixed for a long while even though the knowledge of what to do is present within the company.

Cunning politician
Friday, September 05, 2003

I'm not so sure you can lump people who don't trust their judgement into such a category.  If you're unsure of something, it means you don't have enough information.  That may not mean you have the time or resources to get such information. 

In come consultants who should by their very nature be experts in whatever domain your problems pertain to. 

I think the problem lies in the fact that most of the time the truth is these consultants aren't experts in the required domain.  Come on, what consultant hasn't been thrown into a situation where they had to fake being an expert on technology XYZ or business problem/solution ABC.  Consulting work is very much trial  by fire (though it shouldn't be) and sometimes everybody gets burned ;-)

GiorgioG
Friday, September 05, 2003

"and then relate the very same solutions to the management"

IF you're lucky. Half the time they'll relate some off-the-wall solution that doesn't really solve the problem. Note that this often seems to dovetail with a solution that the consulting vendor sells.

"Network problems? Yeah, you need Remedy. We happen to be a VAR..."

Overall, I think you're right, and add in that for some bizarre reason, consulting houses are STILL held in almost religious reverence. Never mind that you, the employee, were offered a job there last year and turned it down.

I learned, with shock, a few years ago that they're all just people, and not walking gods. Mind you, I haven't found the best way to explain it to management...

Philo

Philo
Friday, September 05, 2003

A consultant drives along the road and is suddenly stopped by a herd of sheep. He steps out of his car and decides to make the approaching shepherd an offer: "I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have!" - "Really?!" - "Yes! And I ask only for a small fee!" - "How much?" - "Just one of your sheep." - "Ok!" The consultant gets his laptop, and starts hacking in facts and figures. After one hour of work he presents his results: "You have 314 sheep!" - "Amazing ... Ok, you can pick one of the sheep by yourself!" While the consultants picks one, the shepherd says: "Hey, I've got a game for you, too!" - "What is it?" - "I think I can tell what your profession is!" - "Ok ... so what is my profession?" - "You're a consultant!" - "What ... how did you guess?" - "Well, (a) you came when no one asked for you, (b) you told me something I already knew, and (c) ... I want my watchdog back!"

Johnny Bravo
Friday, September 05, 2003

This has nothing to do with not trusting their own judgement and everything to do with covering their ass.

Management does nothing until they identify an appropriate scapegoat, should the shit hit the fan.

Politics, politics, politics...

so much for cunning
Saturday, September 06, 2003

Welcome to management theory. As you observe, some organisations have a culture that can be described as risk-averse. Their decision making is characterised by fear of making a mistake and being held accountable for it. This is not necessarily bad. It works in many public organisations, which are not meant to be doing weird things.

However it also occurs in businesses that need to move along, and it can suck there.

.
Saturday, September 06, 2003

Well, it is not just the ass covering thing. Sometimes a decision has to be made, and a manager will be sort of resposible for it. Even if it came from a reputable consultant. Still, the internal people are rarely trusted.

Of course, quite often the decision can be avoided, and that is what is usually done.

Cunning politician
Saturday, September 06, 2003

I have rarely seen managers held accountable for "bad decisions". Have you?

m
Saturday, September 06, 2003

Well.. I am a free lance consultant. Yes, I am normally hired when local personnel is not capable of doing what I do in the required timeframe or using the technology or skills needed to achive something practically. And yes, normally people like me pop up in a 'troubled' places most of the time due to incompetant management. And yes, we (consultants) are dispiced by local folks which is quite understandable - we take thier 'interesting' jobs and insult their feelings leaving them helpless in the realm of the management they happened to land. But, and this is a big but.. in a numerous places I worked so far, there was no one who would 'give a f..k' about work as much as I do. Either because these places are 'troubled' as I said earlier, or the software management guys are such a useless bunch that they can't even hire proper people to do the job.

Storyteller
Saturday, September 06, 2003

You must be a newcomer to the employment world. If this was anytime prior to the last 3 years I would have said quit and become a contractor/consultant and milk mismanagement.
Charge higher rates and get MORE work; do the opposite of everything you were taught or is common sense. Bullsh*t is very important.

Tom Vu
Saturday, September 06, 2003

Risk averse cultures always suck, public or private sector. Things only get changed when people take risks. Change is good.

Yanwoo
Monday, September 08, 2003

Well, from my perception, there are two kinds of consultant gigs

1. The free lance consultant. All of these I know go at it alone, getting a few connections with each new job, and getting along fine. I know others sell their services to a big consulting act (BCA), but I don't know how well that goes.

2. The "monodrone" consultant. The afore-mentioned BCAs send vast hords of these to take over... er, I mean, improve your business. These are ususally as risk-averse and as CYA-prone as the companies that hire their services. This "relationship" is usually very amusing... Until you start making some calculations, of course.

--
"Suravye ninto manshima taishite (Peace favor your sword)" (Shienaran salute)
"Life is a dream from which we all must wake before we can dream again" (Amys, Aiel Wise One)

Paulo Caetano
Monday, September 08, 2003

Reminds me of this classic JOS article:

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/TwoStories.html

Dave

Dave
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

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