Ouch! When I first heard the phrase, “Consultant Industrial Complex,” from Jan Masoaka of BlueAvocado.org, I chuckled at the cleverness, but it also stung a little. While I also have many negative thoughts and experiences with consultants, I am now one of them and perhaps a little touchier about criticism.
Jan described her objection to the proclivity of consultants to focus on planning rather than on action—and at billions of dollars of expense to nonprofits.
A flurry of thoughts and images poured into my brain. First and foremost, about “strategic planning.” Most execs of a certain age have heard the one where the boss asks the secretary for a copy of the strategic plan. She gets on a ladder and brings it down from the top shelf, dust flying off. Strategic plans without strategic follow-up are a waste of time.
How many of us have sat through hours, days, weeks of retreats, exercises, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, needs assessments, focus groups—and afterwards go back to exactly what we were doing before?
“Ready, fire, aim!” is how Tom Peters put it in one of his books. But I know that Jan was not suggesting that agencies should not plan. Her point was that if some of the time planning (especially using costly consultants) went into implementation and action, a lot more would get done.
What’s that noise I hear? I think it’s some of my colleagues saying “Amen!”