"When this situation occurs by accident, I call it the 'empty suit' problem," says Lowe. "When it occurs on purpose, I call it the 'vampire' problem. When the consultant is an empty suit, success cannot be delivered. Instead, the consultant attempts to prolong the project until the budget and participants are exhausted, or the consultant magically acquires the necessary expertise. If the consultant goes into the commitment knowing that success is impossible, the empty suit problem becomes the vampire problem."
But having empty suits on the client side can cause projects to grind to a halt due to the inability to make the right decisions, adds Lowe.
"Huge sums of money can be wasted before the project is killed," he says. "When both sides are empty suits, the project can go on so long that it drains the life out of the company."
The fix: Drive a stake into it. Create a reasonable but short deadline for a definitive action, result, or concrete plan to limit the damage and see where you stand, says Lowe.
"A measurable result by a specific date can be used as a stake in the ground to provide an anchor for the project," he says. "This anchor can serve as a short-term target or goal, a feasibility test for a proposed solution, a competency test of those involved, a visible measure of progress, and a deterrent to 'analysis paralysis'."
And if you don't?
"A committee with no incentive or deadline to act and little technical qualification may be quite content to bleed money to vampires until the original issue either goes away on its own or becomes someone else's problem."
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