I have been in this situation many times in the past and faced with it as close as day before yesterday. Let me put this as a transcript of the conversation between a consultant and a client.
Client : We need to have an objective, fair and transparent performance evaluation system.
Consultant : For that you would have to set quantifiable or measureable targets for people in the organisation and then measure performance against those
Client : But we cannot do this, its difficult to set such targets for our organisation or people. (The reasons could be anything)
Consultant : Hundreds of companies are doing this so should not be a big problem for you.
Client : You do not understand our company is in a very unique situation and its impossible to do something like this.
Consultant : There are many tools which are available to help you do this, lets use tool XX
Client : So how many companies have used this tool in the past and successfully
Here is where I want to tell them about this circular reference error that you get in excel. First you tell me what applies to others doesn't apply to you as you are unique. Then to apply anything to your organisation you first want to know who else has done it. Make up your mind.
I am told there is a new book in the market House of lies - How management consultants steal your watch and then tell you the time. Haven't read it as yet and am sure there are enuf crazy stories about bad consulting there like the other books in the market on the same subject.
The truth in many cases also is that the client nearly always has a watch and does not want to see the time or believe the time shown in their watches and thats where we consultants make a living. I have been in a situation where a summer trainee presented a brilliant report to my organisation on what we should be doing, but we junked it. The report got presented by a consultant next year, and the same report, as our summer trainee joined that company from campus. My organisation went ga-ga about the recommendations and wanted to implement it immediately. I guess, many of us moved to consulting after facing similar situations in our organisations.
95% of the time (I have no way to scientifically prove this) the solution to all problems posed to the consultants probably lies in very obvious commonsensical solutions. I have been guilty of suggesting those obvious solutions to clients because there is nothing else and in many cases being told "Oh so how did you add value, we already knew this". The urge to find complex solutions to simple problems always leads organisations to push consultants to come up with something out of the world and the consultant has to hide behind jargons to make simple solutions sound interesting and unimplementable which client would not have thought of.
I have always faced this request, we want to be the best employers so tell us how. I have always said we would have to do certain unique things that would differentiate you as an employer from what others are offering and we would have to find things which make sense in your context. To everything that you want the client to do, they ask, so who else has done it.
I guess they are confused about whether they want to be the best employer or the best follower of best employer practices.
So all you consultants out there, don't lose heart. We have enuf number of potential clients who will give us their watch and ask us the time and then ask us to find out what is the time in other people's watches as well, just to be sure.........