Wool pulled over your eyes?

Wool pulled over your eyes?

The driver of the BMW had completed his job for the day. He had a signed contract for a lucrative piece of work and rather than race to the motorway he decided to take things easy, enjoy a beautiful summer’s day and the rolling Devon countryside. As he motored along the gentle lanes he noticed a passing place and decided to pull and enjoy the scenery. He stood at the gate and watched a shepherd working with his sheep.

The shepherd soon noticed him and came up to the gate to see what he wanted. He explained that he didn’t want anything he was just enjoying the day. However if he could tell the shepherd exactly how many sheep he had in his field right from where he was without entering the field could he have one of his sheep- a wager of sorts. The shepherd agreed and said he would come back in 20 minutes.

The driver set to work in the car and soon had a an image of the field on his laptop and with the clever software he had loaded the system calculated one hundred and fifty eight “bodies”- subtract one for the shepherd and the total sheep count was 157. He went confidently back to the gate.

“One hundred and fifty seven” he told the shepherd.

“Exactly right” replied the shepherd. “Choose your sheep”

The driver chose what he thought was a healthy looking sheep and the shepherd helped him load it into the boot of the car.

“Before you drive off,” said the shepherd, “if I can tell you exactly what you do for a living may I have that sheep back and a choice of one of your electrical devices?”  A sort of double or quits.

“Ok,” replied the driver- a bit of a betting man and he was having a good day.

“You are management consultant”

“How did you know that?”

“Well, you look like a management consultant, you came out here and used a lot of clever techniques to tell me what I knew already and charged me a sheep for it. On top of that, the sheep you have in your boot is a dog!”

Top Tips

  • Consultants can be valuable in helping you look objectively at your organisation, especially if you are too busy working in the organisation to do so. Are you?
  • Consultants can bring missing expertise and perspectives to the table. Where are your gaps?
  • It’s your job to ensure they deliver ‘value’ – so, what is value and how will you measure it?
  • Consultants need to gather information, but should you pay them simply for providing information you already know? Maybe, if that provides clarity (what exactly are the issues?) and certainty (how do we know that is true?) otherwise missing.
  • You should get a balanced outlook exposing both good and bad aspects of your organisation. Don’t shoot the messenger just because you don’t like the message.
  • You should get a range of costed options – it’s your organisation and thus your choice. They can help you make decisions but not make the decisions for you.
  • Consultants have to make a living as well so if you want to negotiate, then get into their shoes. They will be trying to get into yours!

T>alking – consultants who talk more than you, may be coming with pre-convictions about the issues you face, or lack skill to uncover the “real” cause of the symptoms. Initial conversations about your business, need consultants who are skilled in questioning and listening.

Reality – skilled consultants interrogate reality, to make sure that it is! In most organisations people don’t say what they mean or what needs saying, because they are too polite or believe nothing will change. Great ideas lurk in dark pools and take time to flush out to the surface.

Understanding – only when this is done should the consultant have an understanding as good, if not better than yours, of three things. What the issues are, which are priorities and how best to tackle them.

Strategy – a costed range of options falling from the above, and a recommendation for, at the very least, next steps. This should include success criteria and measures, review timing and alternatives.

Take Action –  implement actions within the strategy. “How” implementation is done is as or more important than “what” is implemented. Review success regularly and be prepared to tweak to get the desired results.

If you can’t trust the consultant, don’t – especially if they can’t tell the difference between a dog and sheep!


Who are our customers? Part 2

You may remember my recent blog (if not please check it out regarding the differing treatment of customers by an airport car park service. In that I mentioned that there was another way to treat customers and this was evidenced in a recent trip to Casablanca. My experience there put me in mind of Michael McIntyre’s story about a bus journey (  but my journey involved a taxi driver not a bus driver.

Some colleagues and I were strolling around the city (against the advice of the local rep) trying to find a particular restaurant that, according to the reception at our hotel, wasn’t far away. Up to the next major road junction by the Hilton hotel and take ~~~~ street and the restaurant is on the left, simple. At present they are replacing the tram network in the city so large parts of the roads are building sites, the major road junction in the directions given by our hotel being a great example of this. Plenty of piles of rubble and fences stopping pedestrians wandering into dangerous places.

After about half an hour wandering around trying to find the street we were none the wiser but somewhat hungrier. We decided to pop into the Hilton hotel and ask directions. Unfortunately, they had not heard of the restaurant. So we were left standing outside the Hilton considering our options when we were approached by a rather tall local (the tall bit isn’t important). He mentioned that he was a taxi driver and asked us if he could help. We pointed out that we were looking for a particular restaurant but we knew it was just across the square (albeit one that was difficult to cross because of the rubble etc.) so that we wouldn’t need a taxi, just directions. Rather than try to sell us the idea of the taxi he walked to the curb and started pointing at one of several streets exiting the square and tried to describe the directions. At this point several of his compatriots joined in, trying to get us to get into their taxis.

When it was obvious we still hadn’t ‘got it’ our tall saviour said that he would walk us across the square, by a somewhat circuitous route due to the building works, and show us the relevant street. After we all congregated on the other side, having dodged many cars, taxis and bikes, our tall friend then pointed out the next part of the journey to us. He, obviously, picked up on the look on our faces and saw us for the idiots that we were and said that he would walk us to the next junction. This walking taxi ride continued in the same vein until we actually reached the restaurant we were looking for. At that point the ‘taxi driver’ mentioned that this actual restaurant whilst good was very ‘touristy’ and that if we were looking for better local food and atmosphere he knew of a better restaurant a few streets away. So we continued our ‘taxi ride’ for a further 15 minutes or so.

When we arrived at our new destination the taxi driver took us into the restaurant, introduced us to the owner and insisted that we should get great tables and great service. At this point he bade us goodnight and turned to leave.

So, how is that for customer service? The taxi driver went the extra mile, literally, on foot. He expected nothing from us yet he was prepared to help to his best ability. Unfortunately we left Casablanca the next day. If we had stayed and needed to get anywhere I know who we would have contacted to provide the transport. He would have loyal customers for as long as he needed them and not only that (much like I am doing now) I would be telling everyone I know to use his services. How do your people deal with those that are not your customers YET, do they drive them away or do they turn them into advocates. Do they help everyone to the best of their ability or do the minimum requirement to get by?

….oh, and our friend the taxi driver. Of course we didn’t let him leave. We paid him more than we would have if he had driven us there in his taxi and we paid for his meal with us. He was a very happy man. You see another important learning point is that if you provide exceptional service you can charge a high price for it AND people will not mind paying.


Thinking outside the box, outside the box?

Thinking outside the boxAn article caught my eye recently which reports on the findings of an earlier research report into the link between bodily experience and creative cognition. It has long been held that the way we think and perceive things is affected by our physicality; training has embodied this by moving people around (changing their physicality) during exercises, using toys to create tactile experience whilst thinking etc.

This research takes this a stage further and sought to discover, amongst other things whether thinking outside the box was stronger than a mere metaphor. Could creative thinking be constrained by physical

constraints (in this case a box), and enhanced by the removal of that constraint.

So, one of the experiments undertaken placed students doing identical creative tasks situated “inside” a large cardboard box, “outside” the same large cardboard box and another control group who knew nothing about the box (box-less). The findings were significant, in that the “outside” group scored 20 better in creative output than either of the other groups. The same results were observed when the students were compared walking in a confined area or walking free – the latter scored significantly better.

Find out more about the research at

So, just maybe physical environmental improvements and location changes can make a significant difference and impact the bottom line. Maybe taking team meetings off-site or even out-doors would result in significantly more creative solutions to hard-to-crack problems. So what could you do differently? – Now, that requires some serious thinking outside the box………