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Despite Poor Results, Organizations Accept Latest Fads

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC) has found that organizations are as intent as ever on accepting the latest fads, despite having been burned continually in the past. Whether a new book on "twelve ways to tame committees" or a claimed psychological insight on the workings of "double brained people," the nonsense never seems to end, despite an absolute dearth of any metrics indicating such solutions are pragmatically beneficial to the bottom line.

SAC member Rebecca Morgan, CEO of Consulting Works, Inc., in Cleveland notes that "Many business owners have been fighting the same problems for years. Out of exhaustion and desperation, they look for the silver bullet that can make it all go away. Because they are busy, they look for it in the executive summary of a hot new book, or by trying what others are doing. The delay in resolving the issue usually costs much more than working with the right experts from the beginning."

Alan Weiss, Ph.D. and CEO of SAC, relates the story of one of his clients who spent over $600,000 in fees, salaries, and expenses to engage in a planning process that only caused confusion and disagreement. "When the two putative 'facilitators' starting arguing between themselves, the client finally called a halt. I was asked to step in and implement a logical, practical process. It wound up costing a tenth as much."

Weiss points out that in a survey of SAC's worldwide membership the consensus is that management fads are still being purchased because many business leaders would rather "throw money" at a problem than try to understand how to correct it, and most human resource departments are bereft of the talent and resources to help. "it's the perfect organizational storm," comments Weiss.

John Carroll, president of Unlimited Performance, Inc. in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina sees denial as the major factor in organizations which adopt each new management fad. "Against all logic, companies believe in a magic pill that will somehow undo years of cumulative bad habits and poor judgment. They want to think that they can make positive, enduring improvements instantly and avoid the hard work of thinking as well as making the tough decisions, such as reassigning or releasing the non-productive veteran and shutting a perennially unprofitable part of the business."

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of Human Resource Solutions in Northampton, MA adds, "If I had a dime for every time the president at the last company I worked for returned from a TEC meeting with yet another 'brilliant book' for us to read I'd be retired by now. Not to mention the wasted time spent trying to fit their fads into our company culture. We would have been a much stronger company if we had found a consultant who would meet our needs rather then us trying to fit their needs."

Weiss concludes that fads are embraced by human resource departments which don't have any insights or solutions of their own, and are "sold" to the executives as "quick fixes." The venders don't care, because they can get their money and run. The book authors become wealthy. But the corporation is the poorer for the experience.

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