The Curse of The Consultant – Content Cramming

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Simon Morton

“A consultant is someone who takes the watch off your wrist and tells you the time”

We’ve all heard the jokes about management consultants.  Depending on your experience, you either nod knowingly and tut quietly to yourself or politely laugh and wonder what all the fuss is about.

Ultimately, the “old school management consultant” (or “OSMC”) style associated with high fee, high profile companies – you know the ones we’re talking about, they specialised in confusing charts, thick reports and having a slightly supercilious air about themselves – became a figure of fun…and thankfully are now few and far between.

Whilst the expensive and ultimately flawed report may well have found it’s way into the shredder, the OSMC’s influence can be felt in companies across the land.  And it’s not good news.

Many OSMC’s were judged on the amount of data they produced.  The thinking was clear – more data shared, the more comprehensive the study…and ultimately the more valuable for the client.  Makes sense in a twisted sort of way…and so ramping up the content became the norm.

The problem is that this profusion of content slowly found it’s way from the OSMC’s usual weapon of choice, the verbose Word document, into other forms of communication including the lowly PowerPoint presentation.   What you end up with is something like this:

And the creation of such horrors is where the rot really sets in*.  Businesses were faced with a dilemma – if management consultants were the clever ones who we should all look to emulate, then shouldn’t we all be creating similar looking complex slides…even though whenever we present them, we’re faced with a sea of confused/unengaged faces?  Tricky.

To make matters worse, many OSMCs made the leap from running big-ticket projects to running the companies.  And cluttered, overly complex slides became the cultural norm in companies across the World.  Need proof?  Look no further:

It’s something we battle with day-in, day-out…and it would seem few companies are immune.  From globe-straddling mega-businesses to fast-growing start ups, they’re all having to fight hard and think harder against creating overly complex slides.  I guess that’s why Eyeful exists…

If you were to take away just one message from this heartfelt rant, this is it – when it comes to OSMCs, everything they tell you about presentations is wrong.

Step away from the content and embrace the message.

* Somewhat alarmingly, this slide was only produced in 2009, thus proving the influence of the OSMC lives on!

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