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Aaron M. Renn

Have you noticed anything different about transit agencies vs. other firms that makes their middle management more prone to accept consultants?


Time to go watch Office Space again...

Tom West

@Aaron: I think it's a transport thing rather than a transit agency thing - I get the same impression about private companies in the transportation buisness.


Aaron. I've had little experience consulting for the private sector, so there may be a cultural difference, but I'm not sure. My impression is that in most gov't bureaucracies there are middle managers who are passionate believers in the product and the larger social/environmental goods that come from it. They tend to appreciate my role as a consultant if it helps to broaden support for their ideas. Of course, they tend also to be especially open to new ideas for reaching the same goals.

Steve Lax

As in any industry, there are good consulting firms and poor consulting firms and good individual consultants and poor individual consultants. I've experienced both the good and the bad in my work.

One problem (at least in the U.S.A.) is how public agencies must select consultants using a Request for Proposals process. Many RFPs are poorly written. Others have conditions in them (such as a percentage of work has to be done by a firm that qualifies as a minority or disadvantaged owned business) that may not be appropriate to having a unified consulting effort. And, there is often pressure to award on cost alone. Also, since consultants often do not know when their next jobs are coming down the pike, they overbook work and then assign less qualified staff to some parts of the jobs they have.

But, when you land the right consultant for the work that needs to be done, that consultant is worth her or his weight in gold.

jack horner

It's the Appeal to External Authority. Management might lose face if they listened to junior staff with good ideas. But they might listen to a consultant say the same things.


@ jack horner,
The Appeal to External Authority is exactly what occurs at my transit agency in the Mid-West, US.

Few people in this city will trust any ideas from the public sector unless a private consultant verifies that they agree. Likewise, few will trust ideas from local private consultants unless verified by a consultant with a big name from a major city on the East Coast.

Art Busman

A citizen suggests something, it is discarded as pure ignorance. Front line workers suggest something, it is given due lip service and ignored. Middle mgmt suggests something, it is glanced at and immediately deemed impractical and unsuitable. A consultant suggests something, it is the word of God. And if it's being done in New York City, it must be the most brilliant thing in the universe.

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