June 2010 Archive


June 28th, 2010

One of the keystones of consulting is teamwork. The industry would be nowhere without it and it’s one of the major scoring areas in graduate recruitment and induction.

Now, teamwork sounds like quite a good thing; the best person for the job, delegation, learning, knowledge transfer…by and by I’m a fan of teamwork because I can joyfully glean everyone else’s knowledge for my own and ask more learned people for workarounds with my own incompetence.  Oh, and support my colleagues, offer my expertise and so forth.  Teamwork can be a real enabler to get things done however the consulting industry takes teamwork to a whole new level.

Part of the focus on team playing is not that you will get on with people and work professionally with your colleagues – it’s so that you won’t say no to them. It starts with the team dinner and social; a bit of alcohol and a night on the dance-floor soon starts to destroys the professional boundaries we try so hard to cultivate the rest of the time. Throw in a few lunchtime confessionals, shared flights and hotels and suddenly the project “team” becomes the project “friends” and therein lies the secret to the industry’s success. You can’t really say no to your friends, can you? Think about it. If someone you hardly know but work with asks you to work overtime you can easily refuse, suggest that you have family commitment and get out of there. However, if that nice girl you drank cocktails with last week – you know, the one who told you about her boyfriend cheating and borrowed a shirt when she spilt coffee down herself-asks for a bit of help to get something finished it’s a lot more difficult to refuse.

The nature of the work forces people together and demands that they become intensely involved in each other’s lives. You’re expected to travel together, work in the same office all day, eat dinner together, sleep in the same hotel and go to the same hotel gyms (which invariably means being naked in front of your same sexed co-workers and doing your hair and makeup together). You can end up spending more time with you team than you ever would with anyone else in your life. Even when you go on holiday with your other half you can at least go on separate bus tours.  On that note, office affairs are notorious and the big joke about “consultants only end up marrying other consultants” stems from leading this lifestyle. You may only see your partner at weekends but you may spend up to sixteen hours a day with the “team”, which is usually rife with attractive, intelligent young professionals.

Working in a team is also a great way to mitigate risk and pass blame. When you’ve worked with three other people to get something done and then got two managers and partner to sign something off, it can’t *really* be your fault when it all bellies up, can it? I’ll be honest with you – I’m of the firm opinion that whilst you’re a junior member of the team and can get away with making mistakes you should make the best of it. It really isn’t your fault because you can’t be expected to know better – it’s as safe an environment as you’ll get and whilst you’re in the position to pass the blame to another team member, do it. They obviously want the responsibility and worry or they would have left by now.

Teamwork is also a breeding ground for a whole plethora of management phrases which are developed and passed round the office as the team splits out and moves on. To give you a taster, here are three team-orientated phrases which I’ve heard in the past five hours alone: “We should touch base later” –I’ll phone you in an hour or so “I’ll take this offline” – “Let’s not discuss that with everyone else here “Are we strong on that?” – Can we do that nay impossible task? There’s only so much of “team calls” and “hello team” and “team updates” you can take before you start to resent that fact that no one calls you by your name (unless they want something done) or the fact that you don’t seem to have a life outside the “team” or the fact that the same set of pasted on smiling faces are going to see you falling off the treadmill at 6am as have shared your taxi home at midnight the night before.

Lastly, there’s the guilt. The point I alluded to at the start of this diatribe highlighting the fuzzy line between co-worker and friend which seems to permit others to ask anything of you and you comply. I was speaking to a fellow consultant recently who said that he felt bad about leaving his project team working to 3am and going home because they will “resent him”. He only feels like that because he fell for the tricks which let him become close to the guys he works with. His relationships within the team means that he thinks that he owes them solidarity when all he really owes them is a cup of coffee when it’s his round.

It’s not the army, it’s not an operating table, it’s not a rescue mission. Your teamwork may be crucial to the project success but it’s not life or death. Do yourself a favour and go home. They’ll get over it.


June 17th, 2010

I was in discussions with a good friend and worker in the public sector regarding the issue of justified expenses (I don’t mean MP type expenses, just general work expenses.  Before anyone leaps onto a high horse).
“You have it easy,” she said, “You just claim it all on expenses.”

Oh really?  I asked for some justification on what “it all” was.
“Well…your travel, your food and drink…top hotels, entertainment, gym membership, telephone calls, drinks with clients, clothes, dry-cleaning…”
I mulled it over.  Entertainment written onto expenses?  Taking clients wining and dining?  Where was she getting this from?  Then I realised that she was getting consultants confused with investment bankers.  The subtle difference between investment bankers and consultants is that the two industries are dissimilar in every way.  I don’t know where in the annals of tertiary sector work this mix up originated but it seems to once again perpetuated by the media who presents overfed coke head party boys (and girls) who spend their spare time in strip clubs as the only type of professional services worker out there and indeed given the rest of us a damning reputation…either way you can read more about it here.

It’s time to set the record straight on expenses.
Firstly, on a rather whimsical note, most consultants are honest and conscientious people which is why they ended up in consulting and not investment banking.  Sorry, bankers.  On one level, we know that expenses money ultimately comes from the client and most of us feel pretty bad about stuffing it down the knickers of a third rate bleached blonde tangoed lap dancer.   On another level, it’s nay impossible to claim anything over and above the approved rates for things as our computer system simply won’t let you enter it in.  That’s jumping ahead though.  Let me backtrack and I’ll start by clarifying what is and what isn’t classed as an expense.

“Travel – planes, trains, taxis, busses and boats” – Which is fair enough.  We work away from home, someone has to pay the airline to take us there.  What ISN’T true is that we’re living it up in business class with 7am classes of champagne and toasted cashew canapés.  Anyone above manager grade can choose to travel business class, but only trans-Atlantic and within reason.  Lower grades can occasionally travel business class with manager approval but you can bet how often that happens.

“Top Hotels” – Ok, I’ll be honest.  We get to stay in some really nice hotels.  I don’t mean top of the range gold plated and brocade hotels but we do get nice four star business getups in central areas and a good helping of mod cons.  But then again, if you’re being made to work away from home you want to be able to live as normally as possible.  Nice hotels get boring when you can’t leave them because you don’t know anyone or are working so late you literally fall into bed at half one then roll out again at half six.  You’d better be sure I’ll be after a clean bathroom and nicely folded towels waiting at her majesty’s pleasure under those circumstances.

“Food and Drinks” –We can charge for one meal a day and one alcoholic drink with the meal.  To put this into universal purchasing power parity, this is the equivalent of a large pizza, a side and a drink in a chain takeaway.  No sign of the world famous eateries and Michelin stars here – unless the manager takes you out on a “team dinner” which happens usually once during a project during which you’re stuck with your work colleagues talking about work.  We cannot charge for coffee, tea, lunch, snacks or breakfast.  We can attend some industry events which are usually well covered by expenses but who wants to go to work after work and talk about work (see the theme here…) for a free glass of Pinot Grigio?

“Gym Membership” – you can get half subsidised gym membership for one gym which the company chooses but that’s useless as we tend to work away from home a lot.

“Telephone calls” – We can claim calls from the work mobile within a reasonable limit which I bet isn’t as much as your monthly contract.

“Drinks with clients” – If you are of senior enough grade – as in if you’ve spent years slaving over a hot laptop and working 60 hour weeks you can – sometimes -  take clients out for a drink.  The average length of time it takes to get to a grade which allows you to charge for expenses with clients is twelve years.  However, I have heard about client entertainment events such as taking client to box theatre seats at top productions, but it’s only done by the partners and it’s usually with a business agenda.

“Clothes and drycleaning” – Are you serious?  Even if I had the time to go shopping no one is going to pay for my clothes.  There was one circumstance where I had been away from home for four days and my manager asked me to work Friday in a different office then work the weekend doing something else.  His entire suggested reimbursement was that I could buy some clean shirts to wear.  No mention of overtime (which we don’t get paid) or relocation reimbursement.  No, I’m female so obviously the offer of new clothes is going to rope me in.  I said no.

When it comes to entering claims, there is a defined list which much be checked and entered into our systems, along with the provisions of receipts and covering letters where necessary.  Any value which comes as unusual is pulled through an audit process and scrutinised.  Which is fine in my books– there’s no such thing as a free lunch and if such procedures catch out anyone trying to overclaim when the honest ones are doing the best to enter everything in to the penny then it gets my support.
I’ve realised that what I’ve written can almost be construed as negative.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s simply trying to explain the truth behind our work expenses.  I wouldn’t feel right writing of large sums of client money into filling my belly and even if I had the freedom do so I doubt I would.

Consultant CV

June 6th, 2010

This was sent through by a fellow consultant, I can’t claim for any of the humour contained therein. I have removed the incriminating lines and edited it slightly. Enjoy!

Consulting CV

Senior Master of Deception with over 6 years experience at GENERIC CONSULTANCY, one of the global ‘big 4’ scam organisations.   An expert in all subjects with the ability to turn simple tasks into Sisyphean endeavours for maximum revenue generation. Savvy and sycophantic with the capacity to swindle senior personnel in major public and private sector organizations.

Fundamental scope of expertism

  • Ability to invent massively unnecessary projects.
  • Effective time and cost multiplication to achieve maximum revenue.
    Verbosity and circumlocution expertise; skilled in document-to-tome transmogrification.
  • Sourcing and procurement of high-complexity word replacements for ‘finding’ and ‘buying’.
  • Successful implementation of solutions for major global organizations; particularly familiar with BRINE and SUGAR-SYRUP.
  • Completely guilt averse.
  • QTEMHBNAUBIJAMS level 3 practitioner (Qualification That Everybody Must Have But Nobody Actually Uses Because It’s Just Another Moneymaking Scam.)
  • Antecedent encounters of appositeness

    Project PARP – HM Department of Internal Organs

    • Led a £3 million anus procurement project. Senior government official had become constipated after ingesting his own anus.
    • Anus had been fully digested but defecation phase could not be completed since there was no anus throughwhich to pass a motion because it had been eaten, a phenomenon known as Personal Anal Recursion Paradox (PARP).
    • Initial Gap Analysis phase to establish the gap left by the anus followed by delivery of well documented intestinal requirements; successfully sourced and procured a new ‘best fit’ anus and oversaw the rectal integration phase.

    Data Whorehousing Project

    • 2 year, £4.2 million project to create a data whorehouse for a large manufacturer of blue chips for the casino industry.
    • Requirement for employees to have the option of having intercourse with data whilst working in remote locations.
    • Used sex-cell spreadsheets, COGNOS (Cognos Ognos Gnos Nos Os S) and statistical masochism to develop a database unusualised to the 4th unusual form.
    • Led the development of a ‘safe data sex’ initiative to allow the interfacing of male front-end and female back-end systems.

    Project Peristalsis

    • Project to review all documented central government processes and procedures to replace semi-colons with colons.
    • Objective was to allow the effective metaphorical transition of faeces throughout all documentation; budget: £4 trillion.
    • Led a team of 12 procurement analysts to successfully acquire over 23 million full stops during the colon construction phase; oversaw the subsequent decommissioning of over 23 million obsolete commas.
    • Produced recommendations report for the setup of a comma recycling initiative to turn disused commas into apostrophes.
    • Project completed on time and within budget under very tight deadlines.

    Extra-curricular preoccupations
    Not Applicable.