Stanislaw Andreski ( 1919-2007) in his little big book ‘Social Science as Sorcery’, writing about the influence of the social scientist said:
If when ever a fire brigade comes, the flame becomes even fiercer, you might begin to wonder what is that they are squirting, and whether they are not by any chance pouring oil into the fire
When I read it I always thought he might as well have been referring to consultants. To a perhaps naïve viewer, sometimes Big Consulting is called to sort out a big strategic mess. The house is on fire. But the fire is not extinguished. After months and perhaps years, the flames are still there. Oh, hold on, there are new flames coming from areas that were not in flame.
Called to run a Big Restructuring of A and cut costs by X, they do so year one. In year two there is another restructuring over the previous one, which is not simply another pealing of the onion, but a different kind of onion . Year three they are still restructuring. Whatever is left once all has been centralised and all the cuts implemented, gets cut again. Corporate memory at dementia levels. Human capital in trouble. And, in some cases, not even the consolation of a big market turnaround.
And what is that they are squirting?
I run a consulting group. When I look back, if I saw that the house is still on fire after my brigade has been in, I could not go to sleep.
Just wondering how much self-reflection there is in the traditional consulting approach.
PS. An old client, now in forced early retirement, once told me about a Big Consulting that had been around running project X (whilst we have been doing project Y to deal with/translate the monster created by them, not unusual for us): ‘The project finished last year, but they are still in my office’.