by Cole Henry Forster
“Basically I help big-picture people talk to small-picture people” an old friend with a new job explains to me as I snort into my drink. She’s recently taken a job at a Big Four consulting firm and I’ve just asked her what exactly it is that she does all day. Honestly, I didn’t mean to sound rude, but the idea that anyone would pay an exorbitant salary to a recent college graduate in return for his or her ‘expertise’ always seemed slightly insane. What’s also confusing is the sort of blithe answers you get when you field any sort of inquest into what these people actually do.
In principle the idea of consulting makes sense to me. You want to implement cost-saving measures or launch a new product, but your firm doesn’t have the requisite in-house horsepower to accomplish the task, or you simply need a fresh perspective. That’s fine, contract it out. But those well-defined objectives, along with accounting services/auditing are mostly reserved for CPAs and other people with finance backgrounds; my friend has a degree in English Literature. So again, I pry, “you get a new client, what are your normal responsibilities?”
No matter who you ask, the CPAs excluded, you’ll invariably get vaguely defensive responses to the tune of “I’m like a business doctor,” or “I provide market-integrated solutions.” Now, I’m not an accountant, nor have I ever had to hire a consulting firm, but I don’t think my lack of business action precludes me from seeing that the majority of these jobs are bullshit jobs. To an outsider the whole consulting industry seems like a clever parasitic relationship wherein the contracted firm leeches its profits from the unctuous layer of management blubber all while purporting to maximize efficiency in the long run.
Oh you had to fly to Singapore to show some old magnate how important it is for his company to implement a “comprehensive social media meta-story that promotes brand energy?” Fuck off with your pompous invented lexicon. Even the purported speciality of consultants, expertise, more often than not feels superficial. They have essentially no incentive to hurry their process along because their shapeless jobs all depend on how long they can drag out the project.
Maybe it seems bizarre that I’ve drafted this invective against consultants after having freely admitted I don’t understand what they do, but I think we can all agree *winks furiously at everyone in the industry* that management consultants are the worst. I refuse to accept that being an Ivy League wunderkind qualifies you to toss people off a company’s payroll simply because you were invited to do so by the confused limp-dicked corporate leadership. Oh and my final bit of scolding: there are precisely zero circumstances where it is okay to use the word ‘deliverable’ as a noun instead of an adjective.