How The Consultant Fired His Boss: A Fable

June 19, 2007, 4:15 PM UTC


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.

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