Bingsop Fables

How The Consultant Fired His Boss: A Fable

Chairman on Golf Course


Once Upon A Time, there was a Consultant who worked for a Japanese Corporation. Now, this Consultant and the Japanese Corporation were well suited to each other, for each could talk and talk and talk about an issue until they were ready for a drink because their throats were so easily parched. Then, after this drink, which often took place at lunchtime, they were all prepared for another bout of talking and talking and talking and at no point did they come to a moment when any deciding was necessary.

And so they went on this way for years, the Consultant and the Japanese Corporation, sometimes repairing to a golf course for further discussion on matters that pertained to preceding and subsequent discussions.

One day the Consultant woke up in his home back in the United States, in a city not far from Chicago, and he looked at himself in the mirror and did not like what he saw particularly. This was not an altogether new thing, but worse than usual.

"Goodness," said the Consultant to his reflection. "Tomorrow I have to pack my bags and fly for seventeen hours to go to Japan again. While I am there I will eat and drink and golf and attend many meetings, some of them with the Chairman himself. And in spite of all my preparation and good ideas and suggestions for the Japanese Corporation, nothing will be done except the arrangement of further discussion, study and consideration. I've been at this for almost a decade and it has always been thus." As he said this, the Consultant nicked himself shaving, something he almost never did, since he was a very meticulous and careful person. This upset him so much that he forgot all about the important ethical question that had confounded him for a moment, and he spent the next thirty minutes making sure the shaving nick didn't show, since he had an important meeting that morning with an American Corporation that paid him a lot of money to cut expenses.

When he arrived in Japan a day or so later, he was immediately whisked to the corporate headquarters of his client, where a series of meetings had been set up for his attendance. The flight had been long and he was in a foul mood, since even consultants like to feel like they are effecting something other than the billing of hours upon occasion. After a full morning of discussion and conversation in which plans were made for further discussion and conversation, the Consultant requested a meeting with the Chairman of the Japanese Corporation.

That very afternoon, the Consultant was escorted to a limousine which took him to a golf cart which conveyed him to the 7th Hole of an exclusive golf club at which the Chairman of the Japanese Corporation was attempting to three-putt a par five. They greeted each other, the Consultant and the Chairman of the Japanese Corporation, with all the requisite bowing and expressions of mutual regard. The Consultant then spoke.

"I don't want to disturb your play, my friend, so I will come to the point without the usual pleasantries that have always been a treasured part of our relationship." The Chairman nodded with some surprise and the Consultant continued. "I have had the honor of serving your corporation for nearly ten years and during all that time not one action has been taken as a result of my efforts on your behalf. All that my work has produced has been a succession of meetings that have generated little more than subsequent meetings. While much of this has been gratifying to me, I feel I can take your money no longer if that is indeed the limit of my actual value to your enterprise."

"I see," said the Chairman of the Japanese Corporation. "All right."

The next day the Japanese Corporation hired another consultant. The Consultant went back to the United States feeling much better about himself. The following week he met a fellow from Shanghai at a poker game in Chicago who he now advises on matters that should come to fruition by the year 2015.

Moral: If your consultant is unhappy with what you're doing it may be time to get a new consultant.

24 Comments Add Comment


Now, more than ridiculous

unsaid truth

What is the point of this? I mean, I read the so-called "moral" of the story, but it seems totally off base. If your consultant is unhappy with what you're doing, maybe you should look at exactly what it is you're doing. Maybe the consultant is full of it, but maybe they're not. The only way you're going to know is to examine their concerns and follow-up. Ignoring their concerns and finding another yes-man isn't the answer.

Gee... I don't know. Perhaps I have the wrong Moral. Can you think of a better one? "A rolling consultant gathers no green"?... "When two wimps bang heads, one of them will go nuts"? "Even consultants have limits"? I invite anybody reading this fable to offer a better moral. I'm not proud. I'll publish the ones I like the best, or the ones that seem most fitting.

I do dispute Adam Clotfelter's point a bit. Adam says about consultants, "Ignoring their concerns and finding another yes-man isn't the answer." It is, in fact, a perfectly good answer if your goal is to maintain a steady course, sustain your level of deniability by hiring a consultant, and change very, very little. The Japanese Corporation in question is quite successful, by the way. And what's wrong with an intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful and loyal yes-man?

I am sorry I wasted my time reading this!

Wow. Worse read ever. Can I get back my 3 minutes of my life?

I dont see any point in this story,

In my business we don't hire a consultant to be a yes-man. We use consultants to advise on things and areas that are not our strong suit.

We can get enough yes-men right from our own ranks.

This is preposterous!

stupid, this story only for college grads..

perhaps you should seek consultation on this issue

Adam doesn't seem to "get" why most people hire consultants in the first place, which is really just to get vindication/justification for the status quo.

That's the current balance that keeps the consulting industry afloat -- companies are happy to pay for a scapegoat, and consultants are happy to be paid to be the scapegoat. The only problems arise when consultants start to suspect (accurately) that no one is actually going to implement what they think. Sometimes they get restless and leave consulting altogether, but it doesn't matter because there are tons of folks out there happy to fill the scapegoat-void.
In sum, the fable accurately depicts the industry as a whole!

Consultants consult. There is no guaranty that those they consult will ever take any action. And yet the consultant has still done his job. This consultant should not have taken it personally when no action was taken. Morale: Get over yourself. No one has to listen to the advise they pay you for.

Nothing makes me happier than when some of you think what I'm doing is pointless and stupid and a bunch of other guys feel differently. Actually, that's not totally true. A big t-bone makes me happier. But I do like the back and forth.

By the way, two points to any reader who can name the cultural phenomenon that gave our reader from Houston, StinkyWeezilTeet, his screen name.

Completely ficticious ... no consultant I've encountered in the last 25 years would ever say that to a client... they'd just raise their rates and bring in some junior associates to have more meetings ...

Now THERE is the voice of experience...

I'm a consultant - sometimes they take my advice, sometimes they don't. The trick to consulting, is to get the client to actually follow through. People think consultants only yap about a particular matter, when in reality, they do yap and they meeting, but at least half the work is putting in place the "new" or "big" idea. Consultants that only yap and meet are a waste of space, most of us do far more than just that. Moral of the story is goofy at best.

Man, if this hedge fund manager thing doesn't work out, I'm going into consulting.

Why a Yes-Man? Clinets sometimes just need an opinion exchange. A third party stand, another perspective. Not neccessarily to be told how great their ideas are. They need to say/or exchange their thoughts aloud, to someone outside the company. A legitimate need.

for the two points:
StinkyWeezilTeet was the Happy Happy Joy Joy singer from Ren & Stimpy..

As for the story, I've seen consultants brought into Corporations as a security blanket for executives. They have an additional person who has analyzed the situation at least tacitly approves to the course they're on.

There is also a more valid approach where the consultants are kept around for a while to pick up on the nuances of the corporate culture. (but 10 years may be a bit much...)

my accounts department will be forwarding my invoice for consulting on your blog shortly

I found this to be very interesting. But do you really think that it was the consultant who was at fault for wasting 10 years? Is the point that, the consultant was a fool to open his mouth and waste such an apparently extravagent opportunity to be a parasite and a leech? To the contrary, he should have done it long before...or that corporation should have had a reality check after observing the fact they were getting nothing for their investment except a lot of hot air. As a consultant myself, if I see, that my services are not being paid attention to and nothing is being done, it doesn't take me long in terminating the relationship. If all this corporation wanted was a foreign conversationalist so they could feel like they were doing something realistic, then they had to be kidding themselves. Or, did this corporation just simply need to have somebody to listen to them because in fact, nobody in that corporation was listening to anyone else? Every person, including a consultant, wants to see progress and results. I wouldn't want to be a parasite and a leech on any company I worked with or for. If you ask me, unless he was a consulting psychologist trying to help them with their personal problems, it wasn't the consultant who was wrong, it was the corporation which was idiotic in keeping a person around who served no purpose.