A friend of mine told me a consultant joke the other day:
A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of the dust cloud towards him. The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the shepherd:
"If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?"
The shepherd looked at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looked at his peacefully-grazing flock and calmly answered, "Sure."
"That is correct; take one of the sheep" said the shepherd.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and bundle it into his car.
Then the shepherd says: "If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my animal?"
"OK, why not" answered the young man.
"Clearly, you are a consultant" said the shepherd.
"That's correct" says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required" answers the shepherd. "You turned up here although nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you don't know crap about my business.... Now give me back my dog"
As a consultant, I find the joke funny, accurate and sad all at the same time.
It is true that consultants show up and start a conversation about something the client already knows. Then they give a report with recommendations and walk out the door. Leaving the client to figure out what to do with it.
I find the joke sad because clients do not challenge consultants when it is obvious the consultant is not focused on the flock but only on their little area of expertise.
Because without alignment and integration of any recommendations the consequences for the clients are very significant:
- Greatly reduced rate of successful implementation or positive return on investment from not focusing on the flock – or people.
- Disenfranchised sales professionals and customers who are confused by not understanding the strategies and incomplete implementation.
Especially when the goal is to improve sales performance, companies often hire consultants without a plan how to implement the information they receive. Now the joke is on the executives who choose a consultant without focusing on the flock, respectively the entire company with its own culture and strategies.
Founder and Managing Director