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September 25, 1997updated 01 Sep 2016 4:18pm

WARNING: CONSULTANTS CAN SERIOUSLY DAMAGE YOUR WEALTH

By CBR Staff Writer

Lord Weinstock, the famous former head of UK industrial giant GEC once remarked, Consultants are invariably a waste of money. According to professor Fred Hilmer, former dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management, and Lex Donaldson, professor of organizational design at the school, they are much worse than that. Hilmer and Donaldson’s book Management Redeemed alleges that, overall, management fads have done infinitely more harm than good. Beware of fads, warns Donaldson, of strongly held but largely unfounded beliefs and formulas about how to manage. There is a discernible wave of anti-guru feeling sweeping across the US and beyond, as signified by the rapid ascent of the ‘Dilbert’ and ‘Dogbert’ cartoon books, written by Scott Adams, to the top of the 1996 Business Week business book list. The stories of Dilbert, the long-suffering employee, and Dogbert, the canine consultant, are now reproduced in 1,500 newspapers around the world, the Dilbert web site gets close on 100,000 hits per day, and there is even talk of a Dilbert Theme Park with attractions such as boss-shooting galleries. Such is the following behind Scott Adams’ cartoons, Ed Yourdon, world renowned software guru and author of Death of the American Programmer, has even come up with a new rule called the inverse Dilbert correlation factor. According to Yourdon, the more Dilbert cartoons pasted on office doors, the less well off an IT project is. Dilbert, unsurprisingly takes a dim view of consultants – people who take your money and annoy your employees while tirelessly searching for the best way to extend the contract. Dogbert’s top five management rules, compound that opinion: You are always right, even when you are stupid; the physical laws of time and space were meant to be broken; the problem is not a lack of resources, it is a lack of meetings; when in doubt, ask for status reports; and if 10 people can complete a project in 10 days, then one person can complete it in one day. Joking aside, Eileen Shapiro, a former McKinsey consultant and author of Fad Surfing in the Boardroom believes that the incessant practice of bringing in gurus and consultants is sapping managers ability to manage. Consultancy abuse, she says, is a dangerous addiction.

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