Consultant Week, Vol 1 of 5 - Revelation

Consultants. There was a time that I thought little of them as a group (not knowing any of them personally, of course. . .) and didn't see the need for them. I do not know where that came from but I must have heard it from a source I trusted or experienced it firsthand. That was before I became one. Even then, I would wonder a bit about the consulting part of what I do. No more.

Yesterday, I drove out to a boat launching area in the delta which is part of the San Pablo and San Francisco Bay. It's a very short distance from my house and it is a wonderful place to just go and unwind a bit, listen to the water lapping against the shore, watch the boats come and go. It was a glorious day and I had been there about an hour or so, when I watched two boats about 15 minutes apart come to the dock to get ready to put the boat on the trailer. It was a very breezy, warm day. It was during the watching of these two boats and the trials they experienced in trying to dock and then get the boat on the trailer that I saw so clearly the value of consultants. I'll explain.

Both boats and crew had a similar experience trying to dock and control the boat in the wind. The wind was strong enough that they had to go head on into the dock, have one get off and try to get the boat secured and under control. Normally the boat would come along side the dock, but the wind was blowing it away from the dock. This makes it very hard to get it on the trailer which is alongside the dock when the boat is at a right angle to the trailer. How they tried, even desperately tried to get the boat to cooperate was laughable at times and very curious. It was curious because I--with very little boating experience, never having owned a boat, driven one only a few times a long time ago, could not fathom myself a boat docking expert, or even a boat docking consultant worth hiring--I could see so clearly how to resolve the situation very smoothly and quickly and to every one's benefit. I thought, "my goodness! It is clear as day! Now I really see the value of a consultant!" In this situation--assuming of course, they would be willing to hire a consultant for this job--I could have saved them time, frustration, expense of fuel burned trying again and again to have the boat dock correctly.

Because I have so little experience in the field of boating has almost nothing to do with my value as a consultant. My value as a consultant is my accumulated experience and my perspective. Basically, that is all that is needed. I think that might have been one reason I didn't think much of consultants before I became one because I felt that I had much more experience at the task than they did. I was probably right, but it matters not. It is the perspective of the consultant of being on the outside looking in as I was watching the boaters that allows the problems to be entirely visible a more easily solved. I saw the problem very clearly in the boating scenarios.

The accumulated experience of the consultant allows him or her to see solutions based on agreed objectives (in this case, the objective is docking the boat properly and getting in on the trailer in a timely manner). I saw the solutions so clearly and I could see that the boaters didn't seem to have a clue (although, they finally did dock and get the boat on the trailer eventually). I thought that was so interesting and curious that they did not see the solutions that seemed so obvious to me. They did continue to see the problem over and over again and tried a number of very ineffective things, but the easy, effective solutions evaded them. That is curious, don't you think? But it showed me like a revelation how valuable a consultant can be and how much time, energy, frustration, money they can save in solving problems and implementing solutions. What a fabulous day this was for me. I am so thankful to the boaters for putting on that free show. It was a powerful learning experience for me.

More on this theme tomorrow.

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