In the https://sqlcommunity.slack.com/messages/consultants/ room, we were discussing a project that wasn’t going well. Someone was on a team where one of the team members wasn’t succeeding, and we were discussing ways to turn the situation around.
I’ve been a fan of the book Secrets of Consulting for years, and one of the most valuable lessons is that consultants in the business of trading advice for money.
If you find yourself in a situation where your advice doesn’t seem to be making the situation better, there are three things that could be going wrong.
It could be the wrong advice. Maybe we don’t really understand the situation we’re really being called in to fix. For example, on one project, I was talking to the client manager about how we just didn’t seem to be making progress on the goals we’d set for the DBA team. The manager told me, “Oh, that’s okay. I only brought you in here because if you’re not here, the DBAs don’t show up in the office. I needed them here for a while for some morale building. I don’t really care if you accomplish the goals or not.” Ah! Alrighty then.
It could be delivered in the wrong way. Everybody likes to get advice in different ways. Some people want it quick and to the point, others need it privately with some sugar coating. I used to think that my biggest challenge would be the SQL Server technical issues, but that’s far from the case – the hardest challenges are usually figuring out how to get the people to do what I want. As a DBA, you might have been successful in laying down a law or setting a standard, but when you’re called in for consulting advice, the stick doesn’t work. You have to figure out other methods of motivation.
It could be delivered to the wrong ears. Sometimes an executive is sponsoring the project, but your advice is being delivered directly to technical staff. If you’re advising the technical teams to increase the budget, they may not have the ability to do it. Similarly, if you’re telling a technical team member to up their game, they may not want to do it, and you may have to deliver that message to management instead. In another shop, I had a DBA flat out tell me, “Oh, I’ve only got about another month here. I’m looking for jobs in another state.” There was no technical advice that team member was going to take to improve the company’s situation.
Get the book. I can’t do justice to it here, but it pays for itself immediately.