A few months ago, I began a brief consulting assignment for a guy I found quite perplexing. He is the sort of guy that thinks very highly of himself, yet also surrounds himself with consultants, many of which he strings along from one part of the organization to another as he himself moves around. After one of our first meetings, I’d have said he had a big head, but I didn’t need to because he did so nicely by referring to himself as the “head on the horse.”
I’m not really sure how I kept a straight face (or maybe I didn’t and he just didn’t see my brow pinch in consternation), especially because he squeezed it into the conversation six times in an hour. Imagine a few variations of this:
“I didn’t really want to take on this project, but the boss needed someone that could really get it done, and he knows I’m the head on the horse. I’ll get things done, whether people like it or not. I mean, this project really needs a head on a horse, and that’s me.”
“My professional life is really looking up,” I thought to myself at the end of that painful hour. Then I began my work.
One of my tasks was to update a stakeholder “molecule diagram,” which had been drafted by another consultant that came before me but then left the company mysteriously. A “molecule diagram” is sort of what you’d think it’d be, but applied in a way that is somehow both superfluous and just plain stupid. In this case, company departments were named in circles randomly placed on a large page, connected with lines of varying length to a central circle that represented the project (the project that needed the head on the horse). Then, individual stakeholders were shown in smaller circles that spider-ed out from the department circles. I can only imagine if it were a model of a real thing, it’d be some kind of free-will-stealing, integrity-thieving, crazy-making substance we’d all best stay far away from. Even as a poorly chosen representational thing, it had that effect on me.
One of these days, I will figure out what kind of work I can do that won’t leave me feeling like I’m pimping myself out so someone else can get rich selling the same ideas to the same client every few months. In the meantime, I’m open to suggestions…