One of the most talked about blogs in recent months was our criticism of Old School Management Consultants (or OSMCs for short). Much to our delight, the debate rumbled away on LinkedIn for some time with one particular voice, Eamonn Wilcox, catching our attention.
Eamonn kicks off this week of Guest Blogs by sharing his view on the debate based upon his years of experience working alongside OSMCs and reveals that behind the slide clutter, there was some smart thinking…
Once upon a time, creating visuals was time consuming, and very expensive. It needed rare skills, patience, software and equipment. Because of this, everyone looked long and hard at visual aids before using them. Then people noticed that Microsoft Office not only had Excel and Word, but also this slide thingy PowerPoint and the floodgates opened. Après Mac le deluge.
25 years ago, I worked at a London Mac Dealer. I was the DTP person who became the Presentation Guy. Then someone offered me a job making presentations on-site for a big Old School Management Consulting (OSMC) firm in Germany, starting the next night. I borrowed the manual for Aldus Persuasion, read it on the flight over and the rest as they say is history. I travelled all over Europe, 65-70 hours a week for eight years, making PowerPoint slides, lots and lots of them. Many so packed with information that you had to work on an A3 in Claris Draw and paste it in. Something, which would send today’s experts screaming from the room. But…
For OSMC making presentations was a core skill, not only the software side, but also how to structure an argument, overcome objections and close the deal. Cramming information onto a slide was often deliberate, showing how complex or absurd a situation was, followed by an image implying ‘if you hire us we can make it go away”. Convincing someone that things needed fixing usually meant first showing the mess they were in.
It is not that OSMC didn’t appreciate design principles but business principles were just as important.
Old School Management Consulting took their client’s needs very seriously indeed. They always started by looking carefully at the customer and their industry before taking their money. However it worked, they gave the client what they wanted and more importantly what they needed. You can’t give an honest answer until you ‘get’ the question, once you really understand, then it’s what you say and the way that you say it ‘that’s what gets results’.
Of course, some of it was pro-forma work, find and replace a logo and off you go. However, there was a real appreciation for the craft of putting stuff together quickly and efficiently. Clients were impressed by how good it looked and quickly it was done. I had a great time working hard with smart people and got paid for it. Eventually a client made me an offer I didn’t refuse and I moved on.
The crime of packing too much into a page, alas, became the new norm for people who didn’t know what they were doing but had seen it done. So before we trash talk the OSMC remember:
- What the audience need to hear is still more important than what you want to say.
- Making it clear is still more important than making it pretty.
- You’re not a really a professional at something until you’re paid to do it.
Tremendous points well made, Eamonn – who knew..? Thanks again for your contribution – let the (latest) debate rage on!