These aren’t the consultant’s you’re looking for…
Yes, my geek is showing here; there is a line in one of the Star Wars movies (the vastly inferior new ones by the way, for which I have little time) where C-3PO comments on a droid production line: “robots building robots, how perverse”.
The reason I expose myself to potential nerd-bashing is the phrase itself sprang to mind towards the end of last week when I was asked to attend a meeting regarding some focus groups. Without revealing my identity entirely, this happens to be an area I’m quite familiar with, having delivered sessions, focus groups and workshops for the better part of 12 years, so I rolled along expecting to sit down with a few key people and work out a quick topic guide before being blackmailed into facilitating one or more of them.
Imagine my surprise therefore, to find that instead the meeting turned out to be a focus group itself. Surprise is no bad thing in this situation, as I so rarely get to take part in such a group that the opportunity is still a novelty. A consultant – who until very recently had been part of the team they were now consulting for – had been brought in to deliver the focus groups with stakeholders. So guess what the first thing they set up was…
That’s right, a focus group to talk about the focus groups. They had done a little thinking and came up with a fairly decent topic guide, which my fellow participants then proceeded to change in its entirety so that by the end of the session we were faced with the consultant needing to go away and work it all up into a palatable form before no doubt calling another focus group to confirm the discussions of the first focus group which was looking at how to run a few focus groups.
There are several points wrong with this tale.
- I have a problem with consultants who used to be part of a team being paid (probably exorbitant) fees to come back in and tell them where they are going wrong – shouldn’t they have done that when they received their first pay cheque?!
- If the process they wanted to talk about was that loose then why are they paying someone so much money to work it out – what on earth are their jobs?
- I am part of the same team as them and have worked with them in the past – what do they think my job is?
- A consultant should lead such a process, not pander to whims of staff as it could be construed as stringing a cash cow along for as long as they are milkable.
- Producing a topic guide takes a fraction of the people a fraction of the time it took us to get nowhere.
- Come on, a focus group to talk about focus groups?! Seriously?!?!?!
We spent almost two hours working out the aims and objetives for heaven’s sake – if even these aren’t clear then why should there be nine people in a room with an average wage well in excess of £45000 (including myself who brings that way down as a mere minion) discussing it?!
Call it professional pride here, but if someone else is being paid a lot more money than me to take five or six times as long doing something probably not as well as I could do it then I get a little peeved.
If only Darth Vader’s choke move could be taught through the corporate training brochure, these meetings would be a lot more fun. And shorter.