What Steve Jobs thought about consulting

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/07/16/what-steve-jobs-thought-about.html


As a consultant I completely agree with him. In the past I’ve rejected potential clients who clearly were too scared to take ownership of their decisions. Also, while part of the appeal of my work is getting to learn about a variety of new businesses from the employees and owners I would never claim the level of industry-specific expertise that the in-house management and staff has (or should have).

Unfortunately, the big consulting firms like McKinsey take the opposite approach, happily covering the arses of timorous clients and claiming that the consultants they send out (often callow B-school graduates) know how to manage any business they’re parachuted into from end to end. And charging an exorbitant premium for those services.


As someone who has done both consulting and worked within the company…

Acting as if it is the choice of the employee or consultant as to which you will be is somewhat misleading; it is the company itself who decides if they are going to hire a consultant or a full time employee for a position. Within the market, you have to be flexible enough to be both a consultant and an employee; otherwise you end up just having a bunch of six-month gigs and in your late 40s wondering what happened.

For all the reasons that he mentions, companies should employ stable, long-term employees instead of contractors, and should always ensure that when contractors are used, they are reporting to employees to supplement their knowledge and abilities, not running the project and making the decisions that won’t come to fruit until long after they have moved onto next. The best person to design a system and implement it is the person who will be maintaining it; the trick is to get them the education that they need before the implementation so that they can make wise decisions.

A hundred thousand dollars in education for your project team before the project starts can save millions in problematic implementations and increased implementation costs.

Oh, and despite what my headhunter says, I’m not really more knowledgeable and wise when I am a contractor than when I am an employee…


Jobs liked people who stuck around to be responsible for their decisions.

Sounds very tyrantie of him.


Looking at how old the video is, it looks like the chastened Jobs who had left Apple and was doing okay with NeXT, before Pixar and way before Amelio brought him back to Apple. What I saw in his sermon was an appeal to go deep, not wide.


Your a good and trusting soul.


Jobs liked people who stuck around to be responsible for their decisions.

Of course! you can’t slap the shit out of someone who has already moved on!



Well, I tend to think of Jobs as several different people: there’s the young and brash Jobs who thought he was a wunderkind, founded Apple and it took the failed coup against Scully to bring him crashing down. Then there’s the NeXT Jobs, licking his wounds, not expecting to be more than that, coming around to the idea of instead of being the biggest, be the best. And the Pixar Jobs, surprised by what those guys and how they were succeeding. The returning Jobs, determined not to repeat his mistakes, and to apply his lessons learned. And the terminally ill Jobs, suddenly all too aware of his own mortality.

The Jobs in this video is the NeXT Jobs, a guy who didn’t really expect to be in the major league any more, but hey, here’s what he learned.


Easily googled consultant joke:

A sheep farmer is tending his flock when a city slicker rolls up in his luxury automobile, hops out and asks, “Hey, if I tell you exactly how many sheep you have, can I have one?” The farmer nods, so the city slicker opens his laptop, calls up some satellite photos, runs some algorithms, and announces, “You have 1,432 sheep.”

Impressed, the farmer says, “You’re right. Go ahead and take one.” So the city slicker loads one of the animals into the backseat of the car. “Now,” says the farmer, “I’ll bet all my sheep against your car that I can tell you what you do for a living.”

A gaming sort, the city slicker says, “Sure.”

“You’re a consultant,” says the farmer.

“Wow!” says the consultant. “How’d you know?”

“You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked; and you don’t know crap about my business…"

“…Now give me back my dog!”


The worst is when the consultants shift their inability to deliver the promised results onto the employees, who then need to hack the main product just to keep the duct taped consulting solutions from falling apart.

Steve was always much more of a build it and they will come kinda guy than a “how can I solve your particular business problem” guy.

My experience as a consultant has been the opposite. A lot of overly busy full-time people who don’t document architecture, don’t comment code, and rarely write tests.

But I will admit that with contractors you need to keep a short leash on them. Carefully define the work you expect from them, and negotiate the time frame you require the work to be complete. Metrics for quality would be ideal, but hard to implement.

For large complex projects, make sure you insist on some form of documentation to be included. I consider it part of the work and it goes with the estimates I offer. Other consultants would give a low ball estimate for doing the bare minimum. Then when a client changes their mind they’ll drag their feet unless there is some kind of bonus. Usually a bad experience all around, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to ask for that consultant again or freely refer them.

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