Why do you want to do that?

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,492
Back when I made a great deal of my income as a consultant I learned that a majority of engagements with new clients were to rescue failed attempts at in-house solutions to problems. The staff were asked to solve some technical-business problem and usually gave it a really good try.

But, they were not experts in the areas needed to craft a solution. After it became clear things weren't going to work, they decided to seek outside help but in many cases not with solving the problem rather with implementing their "solution".

Often the solution wasn't viable, and they'd already made large capital expenditures exhausting the original budget. But, as an expert I could see that no amount of "making the solution work" would actually solve the problem. Many times I had to refuse work because in the end I would have be the one to blame for the failure of a doomed project.

I learned, very early on, when someone asked me about whether I could "make something work" I needed to ask, "why do you want to do that?"

For long term clients even if the initial engagement was a rescue, subsequent engagements were about problems instead of solutions.

The client is the expert in their problem, the consultant is the expert in solving the problem.

Always ask "why do you want to do that?" if you really want to help someone because they may very well have a very good reason but they also may be completely off the mark. In either case more information makes helping easier and the outcome better.
 

atferrari

Joined Jan 6, 2004
4,425
Back when I made a great deal of my income as a consultant I learned that a majority of engagements with new clients were to rescue failed attempts at in-house solutions to problems. The staff were asked to solve some technical-business problem and usually gave it a really good try.

But, they were not experts in the areas needed to craft a solution. After it became clear things weren't going to work, they decided to seek outside help but in many cases not with solving the problem rather with implementing their "solution".

Often the solution wasn't viable, and they'd already made large capital expenditures exhausting the original budget. But, as an expert I could see that no amount of "making the solution work" would actually solve the problem. Many times I had to refuse work because in the end I would have be the one to blame for the failure of a doomed project.

I learned, very early on, when someone asked me about whether I could "make something work" I needed to ask, "why do you want to do that?"

For long term clients even if the initial engagement was a rescue, subsequent engagements were about problems instead of solutions.

The client is the expert in their problem, the consultant is the expert in solving the problem.

Always ask "why do you want to do that?" if you really want to help someone because they may very well have a very good reason but they also may be completely off the mark. In either case more information makes helping easier and the outcome better.
There is a long time contributor in ETO forum who, instead of answering the request to straighten up a non working solution, for an untold problem, asked almost invariably something like "what do you actually want to do?".

Did that to me and I hated the attitude but I finally realized it was the way to go.
 
Last edited:

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,492
There is a long time contributor in ETO forum who, instead of answering the request to straighten up a non working solution, for an untold problem, asked almost invariably something like "what do you actually want to do?".

Did that to me and I hated the attitude but I finally realized it was the way yo go.
How do I fire this gun?
Pull the trigger.
Oh great, now I have a hole in my foot! I should have asked someone who knew what they were talking about!
 

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
17,153
You'll see this in many professions. Car mechanics and doctors can both tell you what a hassle it is to have clients come in with preconceived ideas about what the problem is and their idea of the solution.
 

Thread Starter

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,492
You'll see this in many professions. Car mechanics and doctors can both tell you what a hassle it is to have clients come in with preconceived ideas about what the problem is and their idea of the solution.
It's the situation for every consulting expert.
 

KeithWalker

Joined Jul 10, 2017
1,917
For many years I was a technical consultant. I designed automatic test systems for just about every product manufactured. It was always very difficult to get new customers to define the parameters that they wanted testing rather than telling me what fancy measuring instruments and equipment they wanted in their systems. Most had no idea how to define their real requirements.
It's rather like this forum. It is sometimes very difficult to get the people with questions to define the problem that they are trying to solve.
 

justtrying

Joined Mar 9, 2011
434
You'll see this in many professions. Car mechanics and doctors can both tell you what a hassle it is to have clients come in with preconceived ideas about what the problem is and their idea of the solution.
Leave doctors out of this. Doctors will have a preconceived idea of what is wrong with the patient before talking to the patient and doing a through assessment.

With mechanics, i usually self diagnise my vehicle and take it to the mechanic that has closest diagnisis to mine :)

In my experience, defining a problem to solve is nearly impossible for many people as it is not really something that is taught regularly. I am unfortunately having to work with someone right now who is incapable of actually defining measurable steps in a specific project :( It seems to be a trend as "soft" fields have taken over.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
7,827
I was once hired as a programming consultant to do EXACTLY that and nothing more.

For specific reasons, I was to code a system to exactly the specifications provided. No clarification. No deviation.

So I did. And when challenged. I had prepared a lengthy report describing why the system didn’t nor couldn’t work. And instead of getting blamed, I was given a bonus!

An HP partner had sold a system which was dependent on the delivery of custom software. The owner of the partner company subsequently sold the company. To HP.

HP had a corporate policy that hardware sales were prohibited from being contingent on software sales.

Hence, my hiring. I produced software which was functionally identical to the provided specs. The contract was satisfied. The client recognized the error he had made, and signed a follow-on contract, sans contingencies, with HP. And HP paid me a handsome bonus.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
7,394
I was once hired as a programming consultant to do EXACTLY that and nothing more.

For specific reasons, I was to code a system to exactly the specifications provided. No clarification. No deviation.

So I did. And when challenged. I had prepared a lengthy report describing why the system didn’t nor couldn’t work. And instead of getting blamed, I was given a bonus!

An HP partner had sold a system which was dependent on the delivery of custom software. The owner of the partner company subsequently sold the company. To HP.

HP had a corporate policy that hardware sales were prohibited from being contingent on software sales.

Hence, my hiring. I produced software which was functionally identical to the provided specs. The contract was satisfied. The client recognized the error he had made, and signed a follow-on contract, sans contingencies, with HP. And HP paid me a handsome bonus.
Isn't it wonderful when one works for a decent customer? ...
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
3,658
- You can always spot a well-informed man: His views are the same as yours. :p
Yep, that was my experience on multiple contracts. They would tell my how it should be done. I would tell them why it would not work, but when they insisted, I implemented what they said and showed them that it did not work for the exact reasons I told them originally. Then I would get another contract to do it right, and they were happy with the result, and I was happy with twice the money.

Bob
 
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