The True Value of Consultants

A lesson on how consultants can make a difference in an organization.
(Is this the real reason Anderson went out of business?)

A while back, we took some friends to a new restaurant, ‘Steve’s Place,’ and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket.

It seemed a little strange. When the busboy brought our water and utensils, I observed that he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket.

Then I looked around and saw that all the staff had spoons in their pockets. When the waiter came back to serve our soup I inquired, ‘Why the spoon?’

‘Well, ‘he explained, ‘the restaurant’s owner hired Andersen Consulting to revamp all of our processes. After several months of analysis, they concluded that the spoon was the most frequently dropped utensil. It represents a drop frequency of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel are better prepared, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 15 man-hours per shift.’

As luck would have it, I dropped my spoon and he replaced it with his spare. ‘I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.’ I was impressed.

I also noticed that there was a string hanging out of the waiter’s fly.

Looking around, I saw that all of the waiters had the same kind of string hanging from their flies. So, before he walked off, I asked the waiter, ‘Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?’

‘Oh, certainly!’ Then he lowered his voice. ‘Not everyone is so observant. That consulting firm I mentioned also learned that we can save time in the restroom.

By tying this string to the tip of our you-know-what, we can pull it out without touching it and eliminate the need to wash our hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 76.39%.

I asked quietly, ‘After you get it out, how do you put it back?’

‘Well,’ he whispered, ‘I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.’

——
Courtesy of Blake Sanford, EA in San Diego

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True story about an efficiency expert:

I was the accounts payable clerk in the office of a fiberglass company when I was in my 20s and going to college at night for my accounting degree. Since I was pretty efficient, I finished my work quickly. So, I helped out the accounts receivable girl (who was often in too much of an alcoholic stupor to work), posted all the journal entries and balance the books each month for the bookkeeper (who didn’t know how to close the books) and office manager, and set up an inventory tracking system for the buyer. And filled in for the receptionist on her lunches, breaks and anytime she just didn’t feel like working.

Well, along comes an efficiency expert. He interviewed everyone and watched us do our jobs. He decided that the office had one two many people on staff. He didn’t have the guts to say who was extraneous. So, since I was the newest staff member, the bookkeeper reluctantly let me go at the end of February.

It took them very little time to realize that invoices weren’t being sent out, money wasn’t coming in and bills weren’t being paid on time. They quickly called to hire me back.

Ironically, I never got the message. I was off at my father’s funeral. And my then husband didn’t bother to tell me I had my job back. The only reason I learned about it at all was that I dropped by to wish them all a Merry Christmas and to bring them some treats.

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