| 24 Jan 2003 @ 23:50, by Flemming Funch|
For a while I called my weblog "Ming the Mechanic", because I somehow liked how it sounds. Some people said "Great name!", and others, like my family, said "Mechanic???". Well, I like mechanical stuff, but, really, hardware is something I have rather little talent with. I wouldn't know what to do if my car breaks down. And whenever I need to add memory or a harddisk to my computer, and I decide it is a good idea to do it myself, I tend to end up breaking something. No, I'm a different kind of mechanic. I have some success as a people mechanic, or a system mechanic. I like if people bring me something to fix, and I fix it. Particularly when it relates to individuals or groups of people trying to do something, and not quite succeeding. And I resonate with people with that kind of abilities.
Several corporations I worked for used consultants for various purposes. Like, if the board of directors needed an outside opinion on things, they would bring in Coopers and Lybrand, or Andersen, or some big consulting company like that. Three or four people in suits would show up with briefcases, and they would create a thick report, saying basically what they had in mind saying before they came, and it would cost the company $50K or so. Nobody paid any attention to what they actually said in their report, but everybody were content with the whole thing, because nothing ever changed.
But in this one company, when they actually had a problem, and they didn't know what to do about something, they brought in another kind of consultant. It was this little old lady. Maybe she wasn't that old, but she was an unusual sight for a consultant. I don't remember her name, but let's say it was Heidi. They didn't care about her company name, it was just "Let's call Heidi". And she was fabulous - and very expensive. An extremely sharp and experienced person who would walk around and talk with everybody, and rather quickly figure out what actually was going on. She cared very little about the corporate jockeying-for-position, trying-to-look-good kind of thing. She just went straight for the facts, figured out what the scenario was, reported it to the CEO, and left. And things got fixed. I really liked her. I wouldn't mind being a person like that.
Another example, some would say a horrible choice, but it illustrates my point: In the movie Pulp Fiction, John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson's characters get in some trouble. There's a dead body in the car, blood all over, they're at this guy's house, and his wife is coming home in an hour, and they don't know what to do. Their boss, the big gangster Marsellus Wallace decides it is time to call in Mr.Wolf. Mr.Wolf happens to be across town in a tuxedo at a party, having cocktails. But when he gets the phonecall, he's professionalism itself. He gets paid extremely well, but he is only used when it really counts. He's there in 10 minutes in his Porsche. "I'm Winston Wolf, I solve problems" he says. And so he does. All he really does is to take a keen look at what is going on, and to tell the people who're standing around what the logical thing to do is. And, well, I certainly don't have in mind working for gangsters, but I like the idea of being the person who's brought in to solve a problem, but who otherwise is happily uninvolved.
As to the Mechanic metaphor - a mechanic fixes things, by being knowledgable about how things work, by looking at what is going on, and by adjusting things so that they work. The Mechanic loses no sleep over what you do in-between the times when you need him, whether we're talking about a car or a person or a company.