Opinions, recommendations, beliefs and value judgments

As a consultant I am expected to recommend what I consider to be “right” for them. But clients don’t hire us to be correct; they hire us to do the job for them. We may recommend; but it is up to them to judge what is good for them. I would be entitled to have an opinion. Belief, on the other hand, is a dangerous thing. It clouds my ability to think logically and is the root of self fulfilling prophesies. How far can you take this line of reasoning?

Have you ever been to a physician who started writing out a prescription in thirty seconds of you meeting him? Have you ever met a realtor who knew just the right property for you as soon as he saw you? Do you know a journalist who provides solutions before he has even found out that there is indeed something wrong in the system? They are all meant to be consultants, in their own domain.

I consider myself belong to the consulting profession too. As a consultant I am expected to recommend. Not what the client wants to hear, but what I consider to be “right” for them. That, though, is a tricky situation to be in, like walking the tight rope. Who am I, I tell myself, to judge what is right?

In fact, in my trade of ERP implementations, I have often told my team that clients don’t hire us to be correct; they hire us to do the job for them. We may recommend. Oh yes, we do that way too often; but it is up to them to take the call, to judge what is good for them.

I don’t judge; period.  I don’t feel that I am qualified enough to sit judgment. I rarely would consciously begin a statement with, “you know in this situation, you should…”  Who am I to dictate what you should or should not do? I would rather say, “you know, given the situation, I would …”

I would, however, be entitled to have an opinion. Since I do have one under most circumstances, as a consultant I am obliged to share the same, and provide a recommendation. If I feel strongly about it “I would strongly recommend that…”

When I do say that I know that what I am tendering is a recommendation and an opinion. It would rely on analysis of available information and generally accepted – or rather logically derived – frameworks. I would not want this to be based on generally accepted beliefs.

Belief is a dangerous thing. It clouds my ability to think logically. It also interferes with my ability to listen. When I go to “consult” beliefs are extremely dangerous baggages to bring along. They are the root of all self fulfilling prophesies.

How far can you take this line of reasoning? Meursault, I guess, is the limit – remember him in “The Outsider”? No belief at all in every aspect of life is dangerous. So there you have it, I am on course to complete a full cycle in this progression of thought. If I don’t stop here I will also argue that industry standards are born from distillation of experiences – of lessons learned and best practices.

There are values or standards that most folks set for themselves and others judge them as moral, immoral, amoral and what not based on the standards of these other people. I feel it is easier to go through life – at work and otherwise – if we are more ambivalent.

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