Ethics and Insanity in Consulting


If we are continually hired to resolve the same issue that was previously addressed, is that insanity, misinformed decision making, misguided, or something else? What role should we play?

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the greatest companies in the world have made their name by re-purposing or re-packaging the same item and selling it to anyone that is willing to buy it. Recycling has become an industry unto itself in which we re-purpose something that has outlived its usefulness or passing something on that is no longer of use to the original owner. Over the life of my consulting career, I have continually built upon and improved documents, deliverables, and ideas that I had previously provided to a different customer. However, something seems to be changing.

Five years ago, I was working with an organization known as “Effective Government Now”. The organization was established to raise interest in, and to enable the use of, strategically driven performance improvement capabilities (e.g. Lean Six Sigma) across all of Federal Government with the goal of reducing waste and inefficiencies, thereby increasing effectiveness and eliminating unnecessary expenditures. At the time I was just catching on to something that I now realize has been happening forever. Five years later, nothing has changed.

The phenomenon, the continual request from my clients to reproduce products or deliverables that they have already purchased or funded on numerous occasions. I could even understand if the organizations hired a consultancy to perform work, were dissatisfied with the results and then hired a different consultancy to finish the job. These clients are continually paying to have the same studies done, the same requirements built, the same recommendations made, etc. without following up on much, if any, of it. As if they do not believe that the results could be true, they hire another organization to come in and do the work, getting the same results. On numerous occasions the clients have traveled this road so well that we have returned to one of the original contractors to re-perform the work they had done on a previous occasion. As a Master Black Belt and your Common Sensei, I find that this seems a lot like RE-WORK, something that as a CPI professional drives me mad.

Numerous people including Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein have been quoted as saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. In saying this, I hate to think my clients meet this definition. Is this an issue of avoidance, is there something wrong with the process, or has our culture moved even further toward a complete and total resistance to change? I could write it off as the “not invented here” phenomenon that I describe in an earlier post except that more times than not, they are avoiding things that were invented here. Beyond the question of insanity, beyond the issue of change management or process improvement lays a deeper question of morality and our capitalistic nature. The capitalist in me says that if I don’t take the work, they will just hire someone else to re-do what has already been done. No matter how hard I try to persuade them that it is time to implement the recommendations and begin the transformation, I, as have so many of my partners and competitors, get nowhere. I often come to the conclusion that I might as well take the money that they seem so desperate to throw away. The little voice sitting on my other shoulder is encouraging me to just walk away from the mess with a clear conscience and let someone else deal with it.

Now, what if I told you I consult almost exclusively with the US Government and the money they are using is our tax dollars? What insights do you have now?

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2 Comments

Filed under Business, common sense, consulting, Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Management

2 responses to “Ethics and Insanity in Consulting

  1. Reblogged this on John Persch and commented:
    David Allway describes himself as a Project Manager, Change Management Lead, and Certified Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt with a proven record of accomplishment assessing existing business operations and identifying process improvements, re-engineering processes, and managing change to optimize revenues, control costs, and manage risks.

    I came across his blog via twitter and I was instantly hooked with his article “Ethics and Insanity in Consulting”. David is sharing ideas all change agents are constantly having.

    Best Regards,

    John

  2. As a taxpayer, I’m outraged about money being spent on studies and reports if they don’t lead to any meaningful or sustainable improvement… how frustrating.

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