Why Consultants Don’t Do Anything

Each complaint about consultants and “how much they cost” almost always has the phrase, “they don’t do anything”.

: one who consults another

: one who gives professional advice or services : expert

from Merriam-Webster

If by “do” you mean create something tangible with their own hands then our definition only matches for the one word “services”. Even then this do-thing is a stretch. If you are looking for do you want a Contractor. You will have confusion if you try to get both out of the same person. It is rare that a true consultant will take your contractor rates and a consultant forced to constantly “do” is a waste of money (and time for both parties).

So, any potential consulting client who has said this, yes you are right. TRUE consultants don’t DO anything.

The good ones do something.

Something(s) very valuable (hence the “how much they cost” part).

Consultants Do do (don’t say that too fast):

  • They SEE things. Things that you do not see. Yes you are fantastic at what you do. Yes you KNOW your industry. Yes, yes, yes. But how do you know that is true? You see what you see. (You probably measure that view with tenure and pay- the consultant measures with effect and results. PM systems really do not do a very good job with that particular measure). They see what they see. With peripheral vision that you will never have (but can pay to get).
  • They have SEEN before. Not exactly your scenario, but pretty darn close. While you may think your situation and your business is unique, seen from a broader vantage point there are parts of it that look a lot like other scenarios and other businesses. The experienced consultant knows how to put the different versions of “your type of problem” into perspective to make yours work.
  • They LISTEN. To you. To your stakeholders. To your implementary leaders. When was the last time you felt like you could hold still and just listen? And would it even be possible to do that without the filtering status quo forces you into?
  • They INTERPRET. Just listening and getting tons of input does not solve problems. It is the taking in of that information and bundling it into something that makes sense and can get work done that is the forte of a good consultant.
  • Because they UNDERSTAND. They understand senior leaders have to at least pretend they are GOD and can part the seas. They also understand that those same “God like” executives are also people. People do not part seas. With a consultant on your side you might be able to temporarily separate the waters to clear a path to solutions.
  • They KNOW HOW TO GET THINGS DONE. And it is a shame so little stock is placed on this ability. How is it fair that you as a senior leader get credit for just that competency? Getting my ten fingers to do the work of a hundred seems like a marketable skill.
  • THEY SEE WHEN THINGS ARE NOT GETTING DONE. You were looking to get things done. That is why you considered bringing in a consultant. Wasn’t that because things were not getting done? Are one hundred fingers doing the work of ten? Why is that? A good consultant easily pays for their cost many times over when they find inefficiency, when they call out something politics made you stay quiet about, when they get to the level of the individual to make work valuable and worthwhile (for the person and the organization) and when they make happen what should have happened before you called them in.

You’re right consultants don’t actually DO anything. But they help to get things done.

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