Ask a consultant the time… and they’ll synchronise your watch

Long before I became one of the dreaded c-words, my Dad (an engineer-turned-salesman) had told me a joke he’d heard about consultants. It’s been niggling me ever since and I finally found an answer or five.

The joke goes: ‘If you ask a consultant the time, he’ll ask to borrow your watch.” Sometimes they add “and then keep it” for good measure.

It niggles because it’s [sort of] true; a lot of the time as a consultant is spent extracting the knowledge an organisation already has inside it and recommending the solution they knew to be right all along. It always feels a bit odd when that’s the case, like you’re not adding anything, just reading the time on their watch. But of course, even if that were all we did, we know that’s a valuable thing in itself. And that’s rarely what we do anyway.

So, in no particular order, here’s some of the things a consultant could do if you asked them the time…

  1. Borrow your watch and confirm what it says – because apparently someone doesn’t like the answer they get and needs to hear it from someone else.
  2. Borrow your watch and check the time – to make sure you’re not completely out of sync with the official time, your time zone, and everyone else around you.
  3. Borrow your watch and tell you how to fix it – you’ll need this watchmaker, these parts, and this much cash.
  4. Borrow your watch and tell you to get a new one – not only is it broken, it’s rubbish and unfashionable, buy this one instead.
  5. Tell you you shouldn’t be worrying about what time it is – what time is it? your hair’s on fire!

And then of course not everyone has a watch. Your consultant should have a blinder.

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