Mirror, mirror on the wall, are consultants victims afterall?
They fired Christine.
"They" being the consultancy firm where she was employed for nearly 15 years. This was in the wake of a recent exposé on clients who engaged in unsavory business practices. In her tell-all interview Christine went in detail on how clients misled consultants, set unrealistic scopes of work and wanted consultants to take on a lot additional tasks while the remuneration remained the same.
Though no names were mentioned in the published interview, Christine's demise was due to a simple error. She printed the e-mail exchanges which referred to the interview and forgot to retrieve the document from her company's printer.
Once the story broke online, it did not take her firm long to figure out that she was the 'inside' source that leaked the information. They dismissed her on the grounds that she violated the company's non-disclosure clause and confidentially agreements that all employees signed. They argued that she did more than expose the company's clients. She also exposed the company to the possibility of being sued.
Anyhow, the backlash to the interview was so intense that a few persons from 'the other side of the fence' (such as the contracting parties and implementing organisations) wrote an article to respond to Christine's comments. They contend that the interview painted them as monsters and consultants as victims.
'Contracting parties are not the big, scary monster terrorizing consultants!'
See an excerpt of the article from the contracting parties below.
1. Contracting parties don't expect consultants to be miracle workers
Let's face it, if a job was easy, we would not call consultants. It is those difficult issues and 'impossible tasks' for which there is no in-house expertise that we retain the services of a consultant. Often times we don't even know the true complexity of our problem and how to solve it. This is why we sometimes have unrealistic scopes of work and a laughable budget. We appreciate the consultant giving us a reality check and telling us what is feasible. However, it order to do this, the consultant needs to be a skilled negotiator. This is a soft skill that every consultant should possess.
'When the job is tough and it needs to get done, who ya gonna call?' Consultants!
Some of us as contracting parties have taken it a step further and have actually developed the Terms of Reference (TOR) with the consultant. This collaboration in developing the TOR reduces the likelihood of the scope of work being out of alignment with reality and being impractical. We hope this is a trend that other contracting agencies will adapt.
We also use a useful guide to help us develop our Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the conducting of evaluations. Consultants can share this document with their clients and partners as one way to reduce the number of badly written RFPs floating around.
2. Contracting parties do not willfully (or maliciously practise) scope creep
Scope creep is the gradual increase in the scope (s) of work while the price remains the same. Once again, this is oftentimes not deliberate on the part of contracting agencies. Contexts and situations change. New issues emerge as the consultancy progresses. Things we did not think of when the contract was signed, suddenly appear. Remember, we are not the experts and we have no idea how one little addition affects the workload.
Furthermore, we also expect a certain degree of flexibility from consultants (rather than rigidly sticking to every letter of the original scope of work in a changing context). It is great if the consultant keeps the lines of communication open, gives us feedback, documents everything and (re)negotiates the set of deliverables and/or the price.
3. Contracting parties don't mislead consultants (well, at least not deliberately!)
All we will say on this is, 'if you want straight answers, ask straight questions'. Full stop.
'Contracting parties don't walk around deceiving'
4. Contracting agencies don't expect consultants to be magicians
We expect you to be the expert that we hired to do a job no one in the organisation could do. The expert who gives recommendations on how to solve the issues and answers the hard questions.
The contracting parties had their say, accused consultants of playing the victim when in fact they are not so innocent and can be quite monstrous at the times. The back and forth between the consultants and the contracting parties continues online.
As for Christine, it has been a rough year. The festive season is one of the worse times to be jobless and she also lost her mother a few months ago. Anyhow, she is upbeat and already looking forward to fresh beginnings in the New Year. Financially she is doing ok. Apparently her boyfriend is the owner of the cafe where she had that fateful tell-all interview (and this time of year business is booming at such 'reputable establishments'). Christine will be fine. The End