What this is
This is a Manifesto for management consultants. Not for life coaches or nutritional experts. Not for programmers on loan. It is for those whose most tangible deliverable is a PowerPoint deck and huge Excel sheets.
It is for those in a small boutique firm. It is for those working for a big 4, or a top 10, or however the ranking is done. It is for those suffering from hearing the same stupid joke with the shepherd over and over again.
It is not for the vice presidents or the partners or the semi-retired rainmakers. It is not for prospective consultants, not for friends of consultants, not their spouses.
This Manifesto is for those in the trenches. Those who have high hopes, high expectations and high self-esteem when they start, who are the same that become arrogant, disillusioned, tired and cynical when things get on the wrong track, who are the same that burn out sometimes, who are the same that try as hard as they might to make meaning and a living by what they do, who are the same that have pride in being consultants.
This is for the Killer Consultants.
Why we love it
- We love being consultants because we get jobs that are not fixed in time, topic, role and outlook, but flow and change from one assignment to the next.
- We love it because it is a fast paced world.
- We love being consultants because it gives us status, which we can refuse to acknowledge in the right moments with our matter-of-factly approach of things.
- We love it for all the unimportant things that compensate our lifestyle – the miles and points, the upgrades, the good hotels and fancy events.
- We love being consultants because it is a world of its own – We have our own lingo, we have our own currencies, we have our own heroes, we have our own rules. It is a bubble, and inside we are special.
- We love being consultants because we can be secret-agent-vague about what we do on a first date.
- We love it because we get to see so much – companies, industries, people – the inner workings.
- We love it because the media tells us that we are the puppeteers, pulling the strings behind the curtain, shaping the landscape of business – and sometimes, that is just what we do.
- We love it because we get to work with really smart people.
- We love it because otherwise, we’d never get to see the C-Suite up close that young.
- We love it for the lessons we could not otherwise learn.
- We love it for the career options it gives us.
Why we hate it
- We hate it because the job makes us socially incompetent for real life. EOM.
- We hate it because we have to work incredibly hard to feel confident about the work we do.
- We hate it because there is always a learning curve, and it is always steep.
- We hate it because sometimes clients behave as if they personally own us, just because they pay us a lot of money.
- We hate it because we spend time away from loved ones, friends and family all the time, and no 5 star hotel can ever make up for that.
- We hate it because when we quit consulting too early, we burned our midnight oil but did not fast-track far enough – And when we stay too long, nobody wants to pay us big bucks to slowly adapt to having a normal job.
- We hate it because we cannot explain our job in simple terms without sounding stupid.
- We hate it because it is a world that only works within itself, and when we explain it to our girlfriend, she stares at us blankly.
- We hate it because everyone thinks we do it for the money – and we can’t always disagree.
- We hate it because the money spoils us for many opportunities that might come along.
- We hate it because the decision is never ours, but with our clients.
- We hate it because on some days, a trained monkey could do our job so much better and would be happier than we are.
- We hate it because consulting firms’ managers are seldom good at managing people, because they manage projects and deliverables.
- We hate consulting because the prejudices about consultants are all correct, but totally not true at the same time.
- We hate it because we are trained to be aware of trade-offs, and our way of life is full of them.
- We hate it whenever we are pushed so far out of our comfort zone that staying truthful whilst still being regarded as competent professional is a real balancing act.
How we want to do it
- We are with our clients to enable them to live without us.
- Follow-up work is part of the game, but we only do it when we enlarge the scope, tackle a different problem set with the same client or when they are really not able to execute on our advice themselves. Never, ever do we withhold information, prolong assignments or in other ways trick our clients into needing us more than they really do.
- We strive to be trusted advisors, not a pricey but flexible extension of the work bench.
- We treat our clients with respect and want to be treated respectfully. Calling on a Friday afternoon, asking for a deep dive on that analysis that was talked about, with a deadline Monday morning 8am? That is no way to work together.
- We are not corporate whores. There are many factors pushing us this way, but we strive for more. Because our self-respect depends on it. Being able to convince ourselves that we do meaningful work that contributes to other peoples’ success (add world peace if you are feeling lucky). Being able to look ourselves in the mirror each morning without remorse.
- We want to be consultants and human beings at the same time. Whilst many large firms only need skillsets and capacity, we need to be acknowledged as individuals who don’t fit into allotted slots of the pyramid all the time. Same goes for our clients.
- We don’t want to burn out at 30. We need enough sleep and enough private life to make being a consultant a sustainable career choice.
- Feeling replaceable makes its impossible to work as if it mattered. Thus, we strive to work in an environment in which we are not easily replaced, but can be key contributor to the success of our company and our colleagues.
- We want to tackle interesting problems.
- We want to give honest and truthful assessments. There is no fun and no upside in having one’s professional opinion for sale.
This is version 0.1 – far from complete, or being great. I couldn’t wait to ship it though. I had to get something out. Maybe some of it resonates with you. Maybe something is missing – for SURE there is a lot missing! Let me know in the comments.