Consultants do not ask – ‘What do you want?’


The security alarm technician knocked on the door. After a quick assessment of the house, he asked – ‘Where you like the motion sensors to go?’

I was not prepared for the question. So, I asked back where they should go?

He said, ‘Hmmm, you have four sensors in the pack. I can install wherever you want.’

Not impressed by the response, I chose a few options, one of which was the garage.

He installed them all and went on this way.

In the evening, we secured the house by turning on the security alarm and went out for dinner. Unfortunately, we were late, and the kids were sleeping in the car. So I parked the car outside the garage and pressed the remote button to open the garage.

While the family was half asleep, the security alarm went crazy!

I was clueless. I rushed in to turn off the alarm.

Lesson learnt – Installing a motion sensor in the garage is a stupid idea.

More powerful lesson – As a consultant, you do not ask customers – What you want? Instead, talk to the customer to understand the problems and pain points.

It is so common to see consultants asking for requirements in the technology world. Unfortunately, customers are generally naive about the domain. So they tell consultants what they think they need, which is often very different from what they really need.

The consultant job is to assess problems, understand requirements, and then solve customer problems.

As a sponsor, do not allow consultants to go around asking for requirements. Instead, hire competent consultants who start with business problems, understand needs and propose practical solutions for the business problems in scope.

Otherwise, you will see the alarms going crazy!