It’s time to ask WHY?

14 Dec

Think of all the consultants that are consulting to Malaysia – be it the government or the GLC’s, I would almost bet that a large proportion of it would be American Consulting firms. Simply look at all the conferences going on around town and you can be sure that one or more speakers will be “american” or of “american’ experience.”  There must come a time where we ask ourselves, WHY?

There is a real reason as to why we are so attracted to consultants – more so Americans.  

1. America’s global strategy is clearly based on a services economy of which consulting is a big part of.

2. To support its services economy America has a very strong research culture driven by the Universities. They study everything and everything and are superb at creating causality  or explaining cause and effect relationships.

3. As an economy – starting from the critical reforms of Ronald Reagan in the 80’s all through the Clinton years – America grew and grew and grew. And the world looked to America to learn what it was doing, more so when the Japanese Economic Juggernaut started to choke.

What we are not asking is how many countries have been able to replicate America. I highly suspect that very few have been able to do so, nor is replication a guaranteed success. What America and a few other countries in the world  have is a  massive homogenous domestic markets that was growing in affluence as the population aged from a youthful population to now a fairly older population.  

Very little of America’s success had to do with consultants and more to do with sociographics.  Hernando de Soto offers an intriguing read in his book  “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else.”

The question still remains – with all the clever consultants available to america, how come america has been able to create this huge economic disaster.  How come all the consultants in the world could not foretell or stop the disaster. Why didn’t America’s big three Auto makers turn to the consultants to get them out of the mess.?


So here is the reality, we have been duped in to the HALO effect of America’s success. The reality if what works for America – works well for America. Some of it has global applicability but a lot less than what we believe.   What we need is a strong research foundation within our universities to help uncover Asian causalities.  What will work for us will probably be different than for America.  As an example, Singapore has been successful in Singapore, but it really ha not ben able to export its success to the rest of the world.


We need to stop trying to copy and start trying to imagine, experiment, learn and take chances. Only then will we be able to see real progress. After 50 years as a nation we have done well, but I think we can do better – much better . All we need is the political will… and the courage to be confident of who we are and what we can do.



1 Comment

Posted by on December 14, 2008 in Articles, Business


One response to “It’s time to ask WHY?

  1. Mr Bojangles

    December 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Some possible answers(obviously not an inexhaustible list)to your question on why consultants are hired.

    Because most Malaysian CEOs would rather trust these foreigners than depend on indigenous company folk and the vast body of knowledge and experience that exists among them. Especially when there is a takeover, the experienced, well-worn but trusted and trusty knowledge of those takenover is suddenly considered inferior to the wisdom that can be gotten from these fly-in fly-out wizards with their fancy jargon.

    Also such CEOs are too full of themselves (and their inability to unburden themselves of the colonial mindset) to depend on the local homegrown variety of experts for the answers they seek. Better to be seen and heard with these men in suits from the west.

    Thirdly, they have to fill the positions in the takenover company with their trusted cohorts from the incoming company. Having done that, the vacuum created in the company because of the knowledge deficit of these imported managers can, the CEO’s hope, be filled by these pinstripes preferably emanating from abroad.

    As I said, this list is not inexhaustible. Unlike the number of definitions of consultants. Like this one, and no disrespect is meant to some of the nicest humans I have met who also happen to be consultants. A consultant knows 23 different ways of making love. The problem is he doesn’t have a girlfriend.


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