“Son, you can rebuild this carburator from here to eternity and you won’t fix what’s wrong with this car.”
In 1982, while in grad school at the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, I bought a 1968 Volvo for $800.00. Barry and I drove it up to Canada and back for a conference and the car was never the same – it just didn’t run right. That summer, I decided I was going to fix the car myself, and learn something about how cars worked. I bought the official manual. I got the tools. The place to start was to clean the carburator, so I did that. But the car still didn’t seem to run very well. I took the carburator apart, rebuilt it with new kit parts, put it back together again, installed it – again, the car didn’t work quite right. After several iterations of this rebuilding task, I finally took the car in to a Volvo dealership where an older gentleman in the shop who knew these old models took a look at it. I explained that I had rebuilt the carburator several times and perhaps he could fix the carburator? I stood by while he inspected the car. After a few moments, he looked up at me, rubbed his hands on a rag, and said, “Son, you can rebuild this carburator from here to eternity and you won’t fix what’s wrong with this car.”
The mechanic was my consultant. I was the client who had diagnosed the problem and implemented a program. And when it didn’t work doing it myself, I finally went to a consultant to implement. Great program – wrong problem.
Analysis and evaluation aren’t only appropriate for the end of a project or program. Had my expert been involved from the beginning, I would have saved considerable time and trouble.