The Role of a Consultant

In Life on April 10, 2015 by thebetweenthoughts

I’ve been in the “management consulting” world since 2003 (I put that in quotes, since I still can’t define what that means to people.  Sure, I can BS a definition…but in the end, what do I really do?  Who knows…) – subtracting out some years of b-school and non-profit work, I’m basically at 8-9 years of doing this.  And based on that near-decade of experience, I can say one thing definitively – “it sucks.”

One of my old managers once told me that people use consultants for two reasons – (1) they’re too stupid (i.e., they need an expert opinion or a set of tools they don’t have access to) or (2) they’re too smart (i.e., they don’t want to deal with bitch work).  Based on my last few clients, it seems as if there’s a third reason – they’re looking for a punching bag (both for them to beat up on…but also to offer up to their peers when they’re in hot water).

As the external consultant, it’s difficult to say anything back.  I’ve heard as of late that I should stand up more to the various stakeholders, but how am I supposed to do that when I’m a fungible resource in their eyes.  They know that I’m just here on an external, temporary basis…they have no real respect for me…they have no reason to display any goodwill towards me…why would they?

I’m reliant on the kindness of strangers to get my job done…and unfortunately, more often than not, it’s a kindness that never appears.  With any large corporation, you’re going to have silos.  Departments and groups that work independently and are only willing to contribute to “their area”.  Once their piece is done, they’re more than happy to ignore any and all requests from that exist either on the input or output side of their place in the workflow.

As the external consultant, you come in and try to break that up a bit.  You try to foster collaboration.  You try to increase stakeholder involvement.  You try to make the dysfunctional…functional.  But in the end, all that happens is that you become the center of the shitstorm.  (I should just change my title on LinkedIn to that…Alek Bituin – Center of the Shitstorm.)

I left consulting awhile back because of a variety of reasons…and this was definitely one of them.  No real impact.  No real ownership.  Basically a walking toilet going around a company and…well, you can probably finish the imagery.  I still wonder how I ended up back here.  What happened to the guy that left his “high-powered” consulting job to be a writer in NYC?  At times, it feels like my first few years in NYC were just a dream (random AZN clubbing, attempting to write at every Starbucks in Manhattan, actually finishing two screenplays…) and I’ve woken up to the frustrating reality of my previous life in consulting.

Sadly, the chances of me writing something of note is about the same as the chances of a client ever truly respecting and valuing me.

Fun times…



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