Consulting Mailman is a phrase that I have used many times this week. It has come to be a short-hand way for me to say overhead. Like the post I wrote about not supervising others here, if you find yourself sitting in meetings where you are only taking notes, setting up calls and logistics for others. You are not adding value. Questions to ask:

  • Are you bringing new ideas to the client?
  • Are you making PowerPoint pages to distill thinking down?
  • Are you connecting with the client, and getting them to open up?
  • Are you coaching junior consultants?
  • Are you taking risks that the client applauds?

You are a mailman if you don’t have a value-added role, and instead are creeping into meetings, and delivering messages from here to there. You have become a human email system. If you find yourself sayings things like:

  • I am not too familiar with this topic, but. . .
  • I will have to ask him, what he thinks
  • Let me run this by her and let you know
  • Let’s get A and B on the call, and discuss
  • Well, she is really the one who knows the answer, but. . .

Time to reassess what it is you are doing on the project. Chances are you are project managing, and doing it badly. Overly involved in the wrong things, not trusting your people, and generally just playing mailman. Taking messages from here to there.

Decision rights. Effective organizations know who does what. Great HBR article on using an organizational structure to facilitate and accelerate decisions here.

Bain talks alot about decision rights, but the framework is simple. People can either.  . .R.A.P.I.D. Recommend, Agree, Perform, give Input, Decide. Think about your role on the project, and if you are R, A, P, I, or ..D. Read about Bain tools here.

If you are not doing one of those 5 things with decisions, you are a mailman. You are just shuttling information back and forth. Don’t be a mailman.

Confession: I have been a mailman recently.


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