The Ten Commandments in Professional Services (6-10)

I've written previously about applying the first five commandments to Professional Services.

The last 5 may seem a little extreme (do not murder) for this purpose, but each commandment relates to a set of values, that apply just as much.

Command 6 - Do Not Murder

When am I going to Murder someone in providing professional consultancy?  Unless I mean to murder someone's reputation?  Well murdering someone's reputation is Command 9, so let's cover it there.

Do Not Murder refers to the sanctity of life, and respect for the efforts of people.  Jacob (Israel, the father of 12 sons who became the 12 tribes of Israel) condemns two of his sons in Genesis Ch 49 v5-7 for cruelty.  Equally, I won't waste resources.  I won't ask you to measure things just because they are easy to measure, if they don't yield useful information.  There's no point in measuring the number of rings until a call is answered if you aren't able to do anything with the results, and in fact it can be counterproductive if the staff decide to cut the number of phone lines, so calls can't get through in the first place if noone is available to take the call (yes, I've actually seen this done!).

I will ask you to measure the right  things, because anything can be measured if you are prepared to think about it and plan properly. With my skills in Benefits Management and Social Return on Investment I can think of things that are difficult to measure, but actually anything that forms the basis for a decision can be measured.

I've also taken the trouble to understand Lean and Kaizen, Change and Empowerment, and look for ways to ensure that everyone is properly respected for their capabilities.  Over the last 24 months since the Austerity began, this has helped demoralised teams to take on projects with enthusiasm.  It works even better in good times.

Command 7 - Do Not Commit Adultery

This refers to any action (or thought) that involves breaking a bond of trust or a contract.  The Marriage is a contract before God and the People, and breaking it always causes some big repercussions.  But there are many other bonds of trust and contracts which are equally important, and which it is equally important not to break.

The Old Testament allows that a person is not committing adultery if they divorce because their partner broke the contract, which frees them from the contract.  The early church did not demand unfailing loyalty to church members, but rather specifically encouraged a congregation to exclude someone who took advantage of everyone's generousity and refused to work and contribute.

By the same token, my word is my bond and I will deliver what you trust me to deliver.  But I have to reserve the right to point out that you are making it impossible to do the work, and potentially to part company if it becomes impossible to deliver.  My word is my bond and I won't go chasing after higher paid consultancy which prevents your work from being completed, nor will I take on a job that requires for me to be available, and then substitute a low paid administrative person for all of the boring meetings because I can make more profit that way (yes, I've seen this done too).  When I make a commitment, I make a commitment.

Command 8 - Do Not Steal

This seems so obvious it is hardly worth explaining in detail.  I won't claim for hours I haven't worked.  But it goes further.  If you want an employee to learn new skills, you typically have to pay them for the time they take to learn the new skills.  The situation should be different for consultancy - you have a right to expect that consultants know what they are doing, and that they will pay for their own time and courses to learn new skills.  

Now there's obviously a bit of give and take.  If you want me to learn something that applies to nowhere else but your situation, eg an interface to your computer system, or to learn a new system for the sole reason that I'm going to write a manual for you, then I expect you to pay for my time to do this - and I'll be honest about it.  But I've been asked to design some web sites in Joomla!, and the time that I charge the client is for designing the web sites, not the time taken to learn Joomla! from start to finish, which I do in my own time.

You'll see that my invoices are itemised and detailed, and you can see that you are getting the work that you paid for.  You can see that expenses are accurately and appropriately charged for.  You can see that I'm open and transparent about what I do, even where it is not necessary.  I don't steal

Command 9 - Do Not Bear False Witness

I once worked on a contract where the client had hired in a rival firm of consultants to manage my team's part of the contract.  They went out of their way to make life difficult - refusing us access to key contacts at key points in the contract; demanding reporting in triplicate (MS Project, MS Excel and MS Word - all containing the same information, weekly) in order to raise our costs; delaying key decisions so that we had consultants waiting idle and having to delay other clients because of delays on this project.  It was a blatant attempt to try to put us into a bad light, and we had to go around the consultants and simply highlight why we were finding it difficult to do the work.

I will support everyone to a common aim.  I will tell it like it is, you will find that my reports are accurate and are a reliable basis for making decisions, and I can find things to celebrate in most environments.  But I won't hide the truth, and I won't make up falsehoods to make anyone look bad.  I know what it is like

Command 10 - Do Not Covet

I've had many debates about this one. Some people say that if we don't covet, then our whole economy would grind to a halt. I disagree - coveting is wanting to take something away from someone - their wife, their job, their car, because you want it (or even just to deprive them of it out of jealousy).  Wanting new things and consumerism isn't the same - I can like my friend's lovely tablet computer, and I can go out and buy my own; but I could (if I set my mind to it) belittle his computer to the point where he just gives it to me, because I want it.  I can want a better healthcare system for everyone, but I'm not taking it away from someone else.  I can even see a brilliant idea in the healthcare provider next door and decide to copy it, but what I should not do is take the Award for Innovation from them because I pretend that I came up with the idea first.

Apart from anything else, looking on with envy will destroy your life far more than it affects the people you are jealous of!

The Ten Commandments apply in the whole of my life, whether I'm religious or not, because they are simply common sense.  They also apply in minute detail to each thing that I do in my life.  I'd be fascinated to hear from you, if you believe I've misinterpreted or belittled the Commandments, if you think there's too much religion, then please add a comment on Disqus or email me.