"The Secrets of Consulting" review

21 03 2005

The Secrets of Consulting
The Secrets of Consulting – A Guide to Giving & Getting Advice Successfully, Gerald M. Weinberg, Dorset House Publishing.

I picked up this book when I was thinking of becoming a full-time, free-lance consultant. Even though consulting clients will probably occupy only part of my time in the near future, I still find this book very useful.

Being a successful consultant, according to Weinberg, essentially means learning to deal with a couple of inescapable elements of every business: irrationality and change.

Consulting is hard because clients are not acting rationally. They will have a problem but will never admit it, and the problem is always a people problem, no matter how technical it might seem at first. These two facts are so well established that Weinberg labels them as The First — and respectively, The Second — Law of Consulting.

This is one of the features of the book: lots of hard-learned facts are distilled into succinct — and at times pithy — laws, principles and rules. In order to make it easy to remember them, they are given fanciful names like Rudy’s Rutabaga Rule or The Titanic Effect.

Weinberg’s advice is not to try to be rational at all costs, and don’t force clients to admit their problems and fears. Consultants should be reasonable rather rational, cultivate a paradoxical frame of mind and help clients solve their problems by themselves.

Consulting is also mainly about change: A consultant will be called in either to foster or to prevent change. Clients will typically be stuck in a troublesome situation and will need someone to jiggle them in order to become unstuck. A good consultant will need to learn how to amplify his own impact in order to act effectively on a client’s organization, which is much bigger than him and with much more inertia.

The last part of the book deals with marketing one’s own services and putting a price on one’s head. In my opinion, the best advice on this matter is The Principle of Least Regret:

Set the price so you won’t regret it either way.

This basically means that you should not set the price so low, in order to get the assignment, that you’ll regret it if you obtain it. And you should not set it so high that you’ll regret it when the client is unable to pay it. Rather, you should set it so that you’ll feel about the same whatever happens. You shouldn’t feel too bad if you’re turned down and you shouldn’t feel too bad if you’re accepted, either.

The book is highly readable, the format is entertaining and the number of useful tips per page is very high. It’s also quite short, which is a virtue. No matter what your job is, if you’re dealing with people, you should be reading it now!

What more can I say? Highly recommended.




2 responses

8 11 2007
robfm » A nice little read

[…] Secrets of Consulting Review […]

10 03 2008

Thanks for the recommendation! Always good to come across a good resource for consultants. And yeah, companies do usually call in consultants when they already know what kind of changes they need, but their execs or investors need to hear it from someone else. If it’s a big name like Deloitte or Accenture, all the better.

Again, thanks for the heads up on the book! 🙂

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