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The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully Paperback – January, 1986
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Author draws his 25 years of experience as a consultant by sharing his wisdom on consulting.
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I can give you the book in a nutshell--"all problems are people problems". Everything you need to know about consulting (and for that matter, full time employment) cascades from that fact.
The author gives actionable advice drawn from years and years of experience.
If you're looking for a book about the nuts and bolts of consulting, this isn't it. If you have that mastered and are looking for a book to help you reach the next level of consulting, buy this book.
Some real time wasters have embittered my reading lately. Let me tell you, a 4.5 rating on Amazon guarantees nothing! Reading The Secrets of Consulting was not a time waster. I rate it as 4 stars.
One principle that came out of it can work for some business types. The man with the orange juice request was looking for one answer: "Yes, we can do it, here's the price". If the manager would have said they can't do it, or he can do it at no extra charge, that wouldn't have worked. Services should be available at an expense.
Weindberg explains trade offs this way. If your client wants it faster or larger, give it to them, but the trade off will be a higher price. Many times clients want everything and they want it now at the best quality. This principle helps me remember what is possible, and negotiations to make it worthwhile.
There were plenty of good principles in this readable book. Weinberg is a technical consultant with a strong taste for principles and illustrations. However, if I were to rethink the title to help my colleagues understand it's usefulness in the workplace, it might be: Wisdom and Influence in the Workplace.
Loved the style of amusing named anecdotes with sticky names like 'Rudy's Rutabaga Rule' OR Boulding's backward basis. I'm sure I'll be suffering from Main's Maxim a lot less :)
Takeaways for me: Consulting/helping someone is not as much a matter of being rational as it is of being reasonable. This book throws the spotlight on the people aspect.. Observation, History, gaining and keeping Trust, Overcoming change and resistance have nothing to do with technology. These are essential skills.
All in all: This book is a keeper ; Considering the 30-50 years of consulting experience... this book is worth the price many times over. Definite recommendation. Wish I had read this much much earlier.
Nitpick: I've the Kindle eBook. Although the book has a TOC, the Goto TOC option is disabled. You can workaround this by placing a bookmark..
Being a successful consultant, according to Weinberg, essentially means learning to deal with a couple of inescapable elements of every business: irrationality and change.
Consulting is hard because clients are not acting rationally. They will have a problem but will never admit it, and the problem is always a people problem, no matter how technical it might seem at first. These two facts are so well established that Weinberg labels them as The First - and respectively, The Second - Law of Consulting.
This is one of the features of the book: lots of hard-learned facts are distilled into succinct - and at times pithy - laws, principles and rules. In order to make it easy to remember them, they are given fanciful names like Rudy's Rutabaga Rule or The Titanic Effect.
Weinberg's advice is not to try to be rational at all costs, and don't force clients to admit their problems and fears. Consultants should be reasonable rather rational, cultivate a paradoxical frame of mind and help clients solve their problems by themselves.
Consulting is also mainly about change: A consultant will be called in either to foster or to prevent change. Clients will typically be stuck in a troublesome situation and will need someone to jiggle them in order to become unstuck. A good consultant will need to learn how to amplify his own impact in order to act effectively on a client's organization, which is much bigger than him and with much more inertia.
The last part of the book deals with marketing one's own services and putting a price on one's head. In my opinion, the best advice on this matter is The Principle of Least Regret:
"Set the price so you won't regret it either way."
This basically means that you should not set the price so low, in order to get the assignment, that you'll regret it if you obtain it. And you should not set it so high that you'll regret it when the client is unable to pay it. Rather, you should set it so that you'll feel about the same whatever happens. You shouldn't feel too bad if you're turned down and you shouldn't feel too bad if you're accepted, either.
The book is highly readable, the format is entertaining and the number of useful tips per page is very high. It's also quite short, which is a virtue. No matter what your job is, if you're dealing with people, you should be reading it now!
What more can I say? Highly recommended.