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03/16/2015

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I've seen some good advice out there, but in my experience the problem is generally that it ignores human nature. People have to be feeling enough pain currently to be willing to go through the pain of change to reach a better place. Most of the time things aren't "broken" enough to make it worth the effort to undergo a change. It's also difficult to convince senior management to make changes when it's challenging to quantify some of the people costs.

Which is it? Probably a little bit of all of the above . . . and a little bit more.

Bet this was a tough article for Chuck to write, especially if you're one of "them" (consultants). As my grandmother used to say, "that took chutzpah" (Chutzpah = Courage).

I'd only offer that some of the sale of snake oil, or the rejection of same, is not necessarily limited to external advice givers. The internal side of the "consulting coin" can often be much the same - although thankfully the folks offering advice internally are already part of the labor budget, and not an extraordinary or additional expenditure.

I'll use that last point as a springboard to add one additional item to Chuck's list of five reasons advice is ignored. It's because oftentimes the correct solution is "hard". Whether the answer is to dump five mid-level managers who are the source of more than 50 percent of the organization's regrettable loss attrition, or repurposing a current incentive to provide to others (Repurpose = Taking Away). Ultimately, all of these things can be hard - which predisposes them to a lesser likelihood of being acted upon (maybe).

There is a lot of "low hanging fruit" out there for quick picking by people whose expertise is sales rather than the product or service they are peddling. Many people flail blindly in this profession because they don't know how to do their jobs; they are desperate for simple easy answers to what are essentially complex and difficult issues. Note the constant request for "a tool" to fix every single HR problem. Solutions are always sold for every need.

I will add that some of the solutions sold are a one size fits all kind of answer and in reality, that won't cut it for organizations. Not only are the products/services different, but so are the policies, procedures and people. Add on to that, Senior Managers who heard about so and so company doing it and you get the spend with no return.

Problems continue to repeat themselves because change is hard: it requires a long term view, real commitment, and competent execution. And then there are those who proclaim they have the answer when, in fact, they really don't. Many times consultants are brought in to take the fall for a failed endeavor, and never had the answer in the first place.

Problems are the lifeblood of the consultant class, and its easy for people who think they know something to hang out a shingle. That said, there is a real need for specialists when dealing with highly complex issues (like culture change), and sometimes it takes an outsider to see through the haze and actually determine what the real problem is. Having lots of experience on both sides of the desk, I can tell you that success only occurs when a real partnership between client and consultant exists, with absolute clarity on the desired outcome.

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