Thursday, 8 July 2010

No. More Consultants!

7 July

Working day over and it was time to head to Arup in Fitzroy Street, London who were hosting the latest Gurteen Knowledge Cafe.

A pleasant hour pre cafe spent catching up with all things KM with Judy Payne at a coffee cafe before a short walk to see a lot of familiar faces already starting conversations and welcoming new cafe goers into the fold. David described the cafe model to all and whistle in hand, allowed a quick session of speed dating introductions before we moved in to Cafe mode.

No more consultants. Can we do without them? was the topic put forward to the cafe by Geoff Parcell and Chris Collinson . There was a big turn out on the night, all of whom assisted Geoff and Chris work their way to winning a million in an interactive presentation hosted by David 'TV Tarrant' Gurteen. As the who wants to be a millionaire contestants Geoff and Chris (or was it Chris and Geoff?) made their way toward winning the big one, they answered a series of questions based on a recently published book called No More Consultants.

The pair of contestants seemed to have a rather in depth knowledge of their subject and safely moved up to a sizeable sum of winnings, suggestions from the cafe crowd that the pair of consultants should possibly take the money and run before sharing any further insights were met with more than the odd chuckle.

So having moved smoothly up to the big money, David, having spent the previous day studying clips of Millionaire, delivered in full Tarrant style, the final question:

"Is there a place for consultants in companies and organisations today, and if so, what is their role?"

Time to ask the audience.......

Cafe time! 15-20 mins at 3 diferent tables and the conversations really developed to ask some searching questions. As ever, with such a fascinating mix of people, experience and viewpoints, the discussions quickly moved away from trying to answer the question to examining what the question really meant and how or why has the use of consultants developed and what is a consultant anyway?

Key points that have managed to remain in the grey matter this morning:

  • The concept of loyalty and a one company career pathway is fast disappearing
  • Workforces are made up of individuals with specific, transferable skill sets
  • People are likely to be delivering time limited projects in their jobs and it is now becoming acceptable practice to then move on to another company for their next project
  • Fixed contracts have become accepted as 'the norm' in many organisations
  • How are fixed contract employees any different to consultants in all but name?
  • Given the shift toward a transient project focussed workforce and the apparent 'demonisation' of the use of consultants by government departments and the public sector, perhaps there is opportunity to examine how 'consultancy' is marketed and viewed
  • One conclusion? Perhaps the modern workforce are all consultants.......
Following table discussions, the cafe came back together to work through the 4 possible answers and in true cafe style decided to add a 5th option..... was there a definitive answer? Well that depends........

Cue applause for the contestants, demands by the cafe for a cut of the winnings and finally a big congratulations and thank you to David on the 10th Anniversary of the Gurteen Knowledge Letter . 120 Issues published and an ever growing readership now beyond 17,000 people worldwide!

Following the end of the formal proceedings, a chance at last to say hi to Ron Donaldson, who has also blogged on the cafe

Cafe part 1 finished, part 2 continued at a local watering hole, which proved rather lively due to a good number of spanish supporters watching the world cup semi final. A warm evening meant a pleasant pint outside (with plasma screens in view!) and a chance to chat with Chris, Geoff and network with good good people. Geoff spoke passionately about his previous work as senior knowledge advisor with BP and his secondment to the WHO UNAIDS programme, a perfect example of connecting people and communities with the relevant local information and knowledge required that leads to meaningful improvements to the quality of life through finding out from the real experts, what makes a difference. The world was then put to rights and armed with a number of new contacts who I'll be emailing after publishing this, I headed back across London which was seemingly transformed into a sea of celebrating red and gold. "Y Viva Espana"

Tony Jameson-Allen
Online & Knowledge Manager

Founder of Evolution Networks

Say hello on Facebook: Tony Jameson-Allen

Trustee of The Funzi and Bodo Trust


  1. A thought-provoking and enjoyable K Cafe - big thanks to David Gurteen, Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell.

    The discussion about the changing nature of work and the breakdown of clear distinctions between employees, consultants and contractors reminded me of the Henley KM Forum Transformational KM project. The future we imagined in that project has arrived!

    Only sorry that I missed cafe part 2... but I did share knowledge with a couple of strangers on the way home, which resulted in a collaborative taxi from Goodge Street to Paddington...

  2. Nice blog of David's K Cafe Tony, very enjoyable and interesting.

    I think we are all consultants with differing project terms too :-)


  3. Thank you Ron. Writing this reminded me how useful blogs can be in reflective thinking.

    Judy- Agreed, the future is here!