More insults please, we’re here to listen

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REY ELBO

REY ELBO

THINK of all management consultants you’ve met. They are amiable, friendly, and always smiling. In appearance, they’re pleasant and everything appears heavenly that you can almost see their halo in their social media profile, and yet when you meet them in person, the first thing you’ll ask is—who’s your photographer?

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Maybe it’s because people think a good, positive packaging is a must in the consulting industry or a constructive mannerism can secure them deals. But what if you do the opposite?

Let’s put it differently—why consultants can’t act negatively; even insult clients, no matter if they pay good money or not?

Well, fine, at least you’re wearing designer clothes and appear like taking a bath daily with Neroli Portifino™ soap that costs at least 25 British Pound apiece. Even if a consultant smells good, can you imagine him insulting you to your face for your management decisions or indecisions, resulting in unfathomable losses in your organization? Can you stomach a consultant’s vulgarity because he discovered your failing as a manager so much so you’re driven to commit suicide?

So let’s stop beating around the bush and cut right into the mustard seed with this atypical dialogue:

Client: We’re spending 20 million pesos a month to maintain this inventory, so I finally decided to seek your help because we can’t figure out what, where, and how to start reducing our losses.

Consultant: Oh, my God! What kind of ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity is that? You mean you’re responsible for spending that kind of money for nothing? You should be fired, if not beaten to death!

Client: Errr! Excuse me. I’m the owner of this company.

Consultant: Yes, I know. But you’re not in government service, are you?

It’s always a tricky situation. Why would a consultant intending to secure and perpetuate a deal insult a client? That was my question until I read “Shingijutsu-Kaizen: The Art of Discovery and Learning” (2015), a much-sought gift from Rudy Go, a Fil-Am lean production expert from Connecticut who visited the country recently. The book confirmed what I know about Rudy and all other Shingijutsu consultants, who are unlike other consultants.

Shingijutsu-Kaizen was written by Ralph Wood, Michael Herscher, and Bob Emiliani. They are colleagues of Rudy, a proud graduate of Mapua Institute of Technology, now with his solid footprints as a kaizen leader in the American aerospace industry. Why not? Rudy is a co-author of another 2015 publication—“Kaizen Forever: Teachings of Chihiro Nakao.”

On Shingijutsu consultants being called as “insultants,” the Shingijutsu-Kaizen clarifies a story about one senior sensei (teacher or master), who was criticized by a colleague who called him an ‘insultant.’ “The colleague elaborated, ‘you insult your clients by acting like a big elephant in a pottery shop, breaking things.’ To which the sensei replied, ‘I am not breaking things that the client can sell; I am breaking only things that the client cannot sell.”

Sounds logical, isn’t it? However, most of the time, when you talk to a Shingijutsu kaizen master, you’ll hear something like this: “Your office and factory appear good, but clearly not up to my standards.”

Now, how many clients are willing to face such humiliation from an outsider? Rudy has long embraced the fusion of American and Japanese style of waste elimination techniques, starting some 30 years ago. However, when he first landed in Connecticut, I told him he couldn’t move around here, in the land of his birth, insulting would-be clients.

After all, we’re Filipinos who are overly sensitive to negative comments like that, even if we appear guilty of the charges. For one, that explains why Filipino politicians don’t accept defeat, but would instead claim they were cheated. Much more when you tell them of W. Edwards Deming’s admonition that “80 per cent of all problems can be traced to management, and only 20 per cent can be attributed to the workers.”

In the real world, of course, nobody likes to be insulted, much more inside his territory by an outsider looking in. If you want to be insulted, go and seek a public office. This is the Philippines, darn it, and not everyone is willing to learn by insults.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. I’ve been an HR consultant for the past 12 years. Often clients would like to hear only the good things their company is doing and not the bad, certainly not the ugly. But i always tell them the bad and ugly anyway. If they want to change they will accept and embrace these and chang for the better. If not, then I forego my fee and leave.