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by Gerald M. Weinberg

Adapted from The Secrets of Consulting. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. See below for copyright notice.

If you are a consultant, or if you ever use a consultant, this book is for you. That's a wide scope, because nowadays, nearly everyone is some kind of a consultant. There are hardware consultants and software consultants, social workers and psychiatrists, management consultants and worker consultants, energy consultants and information consultants, safety consultants and accident consultants, beauty consultants and septic tank consultants, consulting physicians and consulting attorneys, wedding consultants, decorators, genetic consultants, family therapists, economic consultants, bankruptcy consultants, retirement consultants, funeral consultants, and psychic consultants.

And those are only the professionals. You're using a consultant when you ask your neighbor what he uses to remove crabgrass from his lawn. You're being a consultant when your daughter asks you what college she ought to attend. In the United States, at least, you don't have to have a license to advise someone on what car to buy, or to help them find the quickest route to Arkadelphia.

With such diversity, what do all these consultants have in common? What would make them all want to read this book? My definition of consulting is the art of influencing people at their request. People want some sort of change—or fear some sort of change—so they seek consulting, in one form or another.

Many people influence other people without a request. A judge can sentence you to thirty years of hard labor. Your teacher can assign you thirty pages of hard reading. Your boss can give you thirty days of hard traveling. Your priest can apportion you thirty Hail Marys. Judges and teachers and bosses and priests can act as consultants. But they're not consultants in these cases, because these forms of influence are enforced by some authority system, not necessarily by the willing participation of the person influenced.

Other influencers have no authority, but are not consultants because they lack the request. Car dealers and other salespeople come to mind in this category. Again, they may act as consultants, but they're not consultants when they're trying to sell you something you didn't ask for.

Being called a consultant doesn't make you a consultant, either. Many people are called consultants as a way of glorifying their dull jobs. Some "software consultants," for instance, are retained strictly as supplementary programming labor. The last thing their "clients" want is to be influenced. All they want is grunt work turning out computer code, but by calling their temporary workers "consultants," they can get them for a few dollars less than if they called them something more mundane.

Conversely, you may be a consultant even if you don't have the label. Anyone with a staff job is acting as a consultant to the line management. When they hired you, they were requesting your influence (why else would someone hire a staff person?). After you've been on the payroll for a while, however, they may forget that you were hired to help. Sometimes, even you forget, so your task is a bit different from that of the outsider called in to work on a specific problem.

This is not a book about how to become a consultant. That part is easy. Most likely, you already are a consultant, because you become a consultant whenever you accept someone's request for influence. It's after you accept the request that you start needing help. When I became a full-time consultant, I soon discovered that few people request influence when their world is behaving rationally. As a result, consultants tend to see more than their fair share of irrationality. You may have noticed, for instance, how frequently someone who asks you for advice will then attack you angrily because of the requested advice. Such irrationality drives consultants crazy, but if they can cope with it, it can also drive them rich.

There were times, though, when I couldn't cope with it, so I turned to writing books to restore my sanity. Anyone who is irrational enough to buy one of my books may be requesting influence, but at least I don't have to give the advice face-to-face. That's why my books are cheaper than my consulting fees.

Most of the time, though, I enjoyed the direct interaction with my clients, if I could stand the irrationality. If I wanted to stay in the business, it seemed to me I had two choices:

1. Remain rational, and go crazy.

2. Become irrational, and be called crazy.

For many years, I oscillated between these poles of misery, until I hit upon a third approach:

3. Become rational about irrationality.

This book relates some of my discoveries about the rationality of seemingly irrational behavior that surrounds requests for influence. These are the secrets of consulting. The title suggests that this is a book for consultants, but the book is actually for anyone who is confused by our irrational world and would like to do something about it. That's an almost limitless audience.

Even if you're so confused that nobody calls upon you for consulting, perhaps you need a consultant yourself. You might just save the cost of a consultant by reading this book. Or get more mileage out of the fees you pay your consultants.

But if you're not confused, you definitely don't need this book. You need a psychiatrist. Anyone who's not confused in today's world has to be out of touch with reality.

What will reading the book do for you? Many people have read the manuscript, and some of them claim to have been influenced in positive ways. One consultant says she applied one of the laws, called The Orange Juice Test, and obtained a fat contract that she would probably have otherwise lost. Another said he negotiated a larger fee by applying The Principle of Least Regret. A third lost a fat contract by applying the same Principle, but he didn't mind very much, which is why it's called The Principle of Least Regret. One manager told me that as soon as he finished reading the manuscript, he fired a consultant who had been costing him three thousand dollars a month. He didn't say whether the consultant had any regrets.

Not all of the influence has been directly financial. Several readers say that they enjoy their consulting more, now that they understand a bit more about what's going on. One staff product director told me he applied his new knowledge of buffalo and dogs to get a higher percentage of his recommendations implemented by his marketing manager. Another staffer could give no specific examples except to say that her boss complimented her for "thinking better."

One old-time consultant told me a long-winded story about how he used to spend a lot of time worrying about the fact that he didn't have a Ph.D. (I think he was getting his revenge for some of my long-winded stories in the book.) He had taken several years out of his life to go back to school for his doctorate, only to discover that his clients weren't interested in degrees. "Reading the book was like going for my Ph.D. I didn't really need to read it, but if I hadn't read it, I would have thought I needed to read it." As you'll learn in the very first chapter, that's the best result any consultant can hope to achieve.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: This excerpt from The Secrets of Consulting [ISBN:0-932633-01-3] appears by permission of Dorset House Publishing. Copyright © 1985 by Gerald M. Weinberg. All rights reserved. See http://www.dorsethouse.com/books/soc.html. The material contained in this file may be shared for noncommercial purposes only, nonexclusively, provided that this Copyright Notice always appears with it. This material may not be combined with advertisements, online or in print, without explicit permission from Dorset House Publishing. For copies of the printed book or for permissions, contact Dorset House Publishing, 1-800-342-6657, 212-620-4053, http://www.dorsethouse.com, info@dorsethouse.com, New: 3143 Broadway, Suite 2B, New York, NY 10027 USA. Additional rights limitations apply, as presented in the Legal Disclaimer posted at http://www.dorsethouse.com/legal.html.



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