Tag Archives: management consulting

Why “The Witch Doctors” is Wrong

More than ten years ago, I presented a synopsis of The Witch Doctors:  Making Sense of the Management Gurus by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge (Times Business, 2006).

The book was a scathing assessment of the management consulting industry, asking on the inside cover, “do you dream of the day when the consultants will go away and let you get  back to work?”

I find it interesting how many times that I have been inside businesses and say the same things that their own people have already said.  And, how many times they perceive my statements as significantly more credible than what they have already heard from their internal constituents.

Why is an external source more valuable and more credible?  A consultant does not work in the company.  He or she is only connected to a firm to the extent that the company allows it to be.  Why would something an external person says have more value than what an internal person says?

I have seen this from both perspectives.  When I was a corporate employee, I said things that had no weight at all, but when an external facilitator said the same thing, it was like “pennies from heaven.”  In a recent consulting job, I had the same experience, because I saw employees readily accept what I said, even though it was no different from what their own managers had said many times.

Remember this – perception is reality.  We cannot control perception.  If insiders perceive an external source as more credible, then that is the way it is.  Everyone is entitled to his or her viewpoint on anything and everything. 

The Witch Doctors is wrong.  The external view is important because it is perceived as more valuable than the internal view.  And, that is all that matters.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it really soon.

“You have 3 minutes to make a PowerPoint presentation that will take me 3 hours to click through”

(this just struck me as really funny…)

(excerpted from The New YorkerSHOUTS & MURMURS: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S “IMPLEMENTATION” Posted by Gideon Lewis-Kraus).

Leonardo DiCaprio takes a taxi to an insidiously nondescript office building. He rides the glass-walled elevator to the eleventh floor, and as he walks past the receptionist we see only the words “MANAGEMENT CONSULTING” in a thin, sans-serif typeface on the wall behind her. He enters a spacious conference room with a view of a park and sits at a vast, elliptical table across from Ken Watanabe, a white-haired senior director.

“I need you to take on a contract for me,” Watanabe says. “But in this case, instead of coördinating a facilitative approach in the light of the client’s tactical aims, you will take a prescriptive approach in implanting strategic objectives as part of a processual intervention in executive leadership.”

Ellen Page walks a few steps behind DiCaprio onto a roof. He turns to her. “You have three minutes to make a PowerPoint presentation that will take me three hours to click through.”