By David Ferguson, China.org.cn
Management consultants are people who borrow your watch to tell you the time, then charge you a fortune for it. Sometimes they keep your watch as well.
I worked as a Management Consultant for many years. There are three phases to a consulting project. The first is to diagnose or confirm the problem. The second is to determine the solution. And the third is to make the solution happen.
People from certain "Big-Time" Management Consultancies always use to bug me. They do the first bit. Then they do the second bit. Then they head off out the door: "OK, you dumb client guys. The consultants have done all the hard work, as usual. Now it's over to you…"
As anybody who has ever done the third bit could confirm, this is rubbish. For a whole host of reasons, actually making change happen is one of the hardest things to do in any organization, which itself is one of the reasons why the bookshelves of many a CEO's bureau are weighed down with Big-Time Consultants' Reports gathering dust.
So what does any of this have to do with Beijing, or The Olympics, or one and a half million myths?
Single-issue advocacy groups
In Part 1 of this article I highlighted COHRE's need to generate sensationalized headlines and the relationship between these headlines and COHRE's revenues. But the problem goes much deeper than this.
A second factor in the equation is that COHRE are a single-issue advocacy group. And there are two major problems with being a single-issue advocacy group.
The first problem is that when "advocacy" is your job, you can content yourself with finger-pointing. As with the Big-Time Consultants of this world: they tell you what the problem is; somebody else has to get on with sorting it. To quote from the COHRE website:
"COHRE's overall objective is to promote and protect the housing rights of everyone, everywhere (their emphasis). To achieve this, COHRE has developed a varied work programme, guided by international human rights law and designed for maximum effectiveness. Our work involves housing rights training and education; research and publications; monitoring, documenting and preventing forced evictions; undertaking fact-finding missions; participation and advocacy within the United Nations and regional human rights bodies; and providing legal advocacy and advice to communities and organisations involved in housing rights campaigns." i
Everything, it seems. Everything, that is, other than actually providing adequate housing for people who are inadequately housed.
What's the problem with this? The problem is that when your responsibility extends no further than highlighting other people's shortcomings – when you have no responsibility for finding, and implementing, a worthwhile solution - it makes you slow to understand, and quick to condemn.
Just like so many of the Big-Time Management Consultants I encountered. Complacent, smug, judgmental, and above all, arrogant:
"…the IOC must confront its mistake in awarding the Games to Beijing, and take immediate steps to ensure that such a mistake is not made in the future." ii
And that's the IOC told. No one in the COHRE organization is likely to be accused of an excess of humility.
Additionally, since you don't have to deliver anything but social noise, you don't have to deal with that vexing question that troubles so many charity groups: "How much of your organization's money actually got to the coal face?"
Social noise is the coal face. All our money got to the coal face.
But the second, and more important problem, is that being a single-issue group COHRE have the luxury of dealing with their issues in a convenient vacuum. Their spurious claim that the Olympics are behind every instance of rehousing in Beijing over the past eight years amounts to a blanket condemnation of every single housing project that has been implemented in the city in that period, and ignores every other factor involved – factors like infrastructure development, housing quality, health and sanitation, protection of cultural heritage, and economics.