Advice for Future Consultants - Patience is the key!
The above cartoon best describes my life with come clients who make you feel like a foreign object that is trying to embed itself into the abstract gearbox that runs the organization. I joined BCSS a while back and what I have enjoyed about my experience was that I didn't have to 'sugar-coat' my recommendations in order to please someones agenda. This approach certainly get you rich, but it gets me sleep at night knowing all too well that my conscious is at ease. It is best illustrated in the following example.
We were asked our opinion on under cover ops by a government agency in 2016 as to why we had an emphasis on a drastically different approach to what they had in mind. My response was simple and straightforward "Even if you had an unlimited supply of funding allocated to such an investigation, you still might not be able to execute it effectively based on ......How about a preventative approach".
The recipient acknowledged the complexity of the situation by sitting back and nodding. fast forward to 2018 and there I was watching them on media trying to deal with the same issue that was raised 2 years earlier.
The key thing to keep in mind is that PATIENCE is the key. Do not jump into this industry expecting that your clients will take everything you will say on board and that your advice might be the one that revolutionizes the entire industry, even if it had in your previous life ;-) The following are a few examples that demonstrate some of the challenges that you might expect during your very fruitful career.
Challenges Encountered whilst Consulting
With regards to some cost effective solutions, obviously the greatest selling point that you are trying to present to your client is the cost. Even if you were able to approach a government department and offer them a cost-effective solution that would literally save them 90% on costs you would think that this would be a no-brainer.
From our experience at BCSS, we have found that the biggest obstacle to pushing forward such initiatives is not usually the cost of the solution but the cultural resistance to change. It is great to see senior officers in Australian Defence Force Academy as well as the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies in New Zealand attempt at creating awareness of this issue but police on both sides of the Tasman are not immune from this problem. Let us present some of the problems that one might encounter when raising some issues with government and their affiliates.
Inexperience- This is an inherent problem that you will have to put up with if you are dealing with policy makers that will keep repeating itself unless the entire political system is changed. The problem often encountered with senior defence staff is that every time they are entrusted with the task of reporting to policy makers, they have to either "water-down" reports or spend a significant time explaining to their recipient the importance of a given issue. Then once you get to a common ground with this person, their term in office expires and now you find yourself repeating yourself all over again "Not to mention updating them on what the last person did since they were in office". Now imagine what it can be like for a consultant. Unless you are being taking seriously, the repetitiveness will dig at you and overtime you will find yourself worn out.
Efficiency- As great as this may sound, cost effective solutions often might require cutting down on staff. This is the same problem that we encounter on a regular basis with our robotics based solutions. Innovating new jobs and training effected staff on new technologies and platforms may be 'too much work' which is the last thing anyone needs but the inherit nature of an efficient solution is to help get more for one's organization by saving time and money making the 'i don't have time' excuse invalid. A thorough understanding and appreciation of the effected organization's strategic vision with a 'result-based' focus may help mend this issue.
Cultural- The Cultural Dimension of this problem is quite complex as it may tie in with multiple factors. These range from "I don't like the system" to "I don't get paid enough to do this" or "It is not a requirement for my job" or the good old "I don't trust new things". Simulations for example, are often seen as a supplementary tool to a wide range of activities that an organization undertakes and therefore might not be taken seriously. Management may need to provide professional development initiatives into their organization by encouraging staff to be actively involved to tailor a training program to their organization so that they may feel that they are a part of that project "rather than . They may also try to be on the lookout for future staff who are willing to continuously learn and develop on the job.
Time- It seems to be a common problem in Australia and New Zealand. When government or a government agency has an artificial 'monopoly', then there is no sense of urgency to meet deadlines since no there is no need for competition. Recommendations might make their way to the relevant person or department only after a very long time. Our most recent example took 10 months which involved amending a set of SOP's. Literally, everything was handed over word-for-word, photo-for-photo so that all the client had to do was get to work with it. In a dynamic security environment, this is where our adversaries really want us to be due to our incompetence to complete time-critical tasks.
Too Much Funding- Now this one is completely new to me but one of our partners who formally worked in the private sector conducted maintenance work on vehicles for the Australian Army commented on how certain vehicles had to be routinely inspected. Upon inspection, they recommended changing spark plugs. They were ultimately ordered by the Officer in change the entire engine. The costs involved were horrendous. When asked why changing the engine was an option our partner replied "They wanted it to look like they were doing something....imagine them going through their annual review. If the fleet is at the dock accumulating dust and the money is sitting there, the money will go elsewhere. Why send it to a different government department when you can use it yourself?"
Too Little Funding- This is the complete opposite to what was mentioned previously. Imaging discussing a Cyber-Security breach with your department only to find that fixing the problem will require you to upgrade multiple networks since government does not have a common electronic communication protocol between each department? Quite often, change in this situation will only come about once the weakest node in the network is attacked. Exactly the same way that the NZ Work and Income department was hacked into via public kiosk in 2012.
So What Should I do Now?
The Contemporary Environment that we are in is nothing new. Therefore, it is best to inoculate yourself to it rather than diving in head first. This year we kick-started our Graduate program at BCSS and we literally "dropped the bomb" on our intern on day one. That way, we are able to navigate our way around these challenges early on whilst having ample time to work at the problem at hand. Since you also will be dealing with people, PATIENCE is necessary to help navigate your way around people and their concerns.
As strange as it sounds, you might also want to take a full personality psychometric test. These are pretty comprehensive and you can get a full one online for as little as $50US.
Why might you invest in one you might add? I had this question thrown at me a month ago. The straightforward reason is that consulting is people oriented. In order to influence/navigate yourself around people, it is of great significance that you know how you are oriented. This ranges from your personality traits to your cognitive biases.
These little fine details need to be worked on and refined as they take the longest to master. As a Consultant, you may be required to step up and offer good sound advice that may be appear to be challenging in nature. You must know yourself, your inner strengths and weaknesses before you dwell into this role.
As mentioned earlier, I do not sugar-coat and the reality on the ground might appear to be pretty harsh but this is the world that we operate in.The Security Industry relies on challenging pre-existing notions to constantly seek out better initiatives to solve complex problems as they develop. Take on the challenge of self-improvement and the rewards will reap you dividends for the many years to come.