“If you can’t grow tall, then grow fat”



Courtesy: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The quote above is a common expression in management consulting circles. It could be heard at the point of designing an organisational structure or when a pay regime is being structured for businesses. With a ‘smart’ quote like this, it appears consultants seem to have a way of wriggling companies out of difficult situation. After all, this is why companies sought for their services.

This is the second out of my last three blogs I’ll be harping on Consultants. The reasons are not farfetched. I am a consultant. I give professional advice to businesses on how to improve on their competences and be effective. While doing my job, I do discover that some of the predicaments faced by some clients are as a result of wrong diagnosis or solutions proffered by a previous consultant.

Without the risk of sounding rhetorical, I would reiterate the basic belief in critical management studies that no two companies are the same. As consultants, we tend to forget this fact by adopting a one-size-fits-all solutions to every company. And sadly, we are never there to make corrections when these generic prescriptions start to go awry.

Take for instance the title of this piece being applied to address the problem of a stagnated workforce. Growing tall means employees moving to the next job level of a company’s hierarchy while being fat implies remaining on a particular job level but receiving a higher level salary. One would have imagined an approach like this would douse any resentment being nursed by a stagnated staff.

Even though you have been recommended for promotion in the last performance review but you can’t get one because the company is top-heavy, you are compensated with an equivalent pay of the next job level. Sooner than this policy was implemented, the problem it was meant to correct resurfaced.

Who says it’s all about money when it does not come with a corresponding authority? Would money get us to that self-actualization stage? People soon became demotivated as the fringe benefits allowable to the staff at the top were denied those earning similar pay on a lower rank. Let even assume they get the perks, it still wouldn’t have helped the situation.

I would have expected a situation where the actual cause of the stagnation were identified rather than offering a half-hearted service that would boomerang. Take for instance, if it became necessary the ‘heaviness’ at the top hierarchy should be maintained, why not create new SBUs or even independent subsidiaries from the larger company. This will free up the job positions as new reporting lines emerge.

My call to colleagues in the consulting business is for us to lay bare possible options and the associated risks to our clients. I’ll also add that even where no retainer agreement exists with clients, we should bother to find out how our recommended solutions have fared. It’s appalling to say that once some of us collect our cheque, we scout for the next client and move on. We really need to up our game.



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