April, 2015:

A Consultant’s Perspective- Teach ‘Em How to Fish

I am typically on the move quite a bit these days.  I have my hands in many different types of projects because I have varied skillsets and experience in many arenas that allow me to fill many roles.  One day I may be assisting one organization select and implement a new Practice Management system, then I may be assisting another with building interface translations then helping yet another with strategic planning.  Each engagement is something new and interesting.  However, no matter my purpose at any given organization, one effort remains constant; I try to leave each organization better than when I arrived.

My primary goal, of course, is to accomplish the principals as outlined in the contract. But, I do not leave it at that.  Instead, I try to accomplish just a bit more and whenever the opportunity presents, I actively focus on teaching each organization as much as I can in the time allotted so that they are as self-sufficient as possible when I depart.  This concept is not new and I certainly can’t take credit for it.  This philosophy actually comes from the 12th century philosopher, theologian and legal scholar, Maimonides, who is credited with saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

I borrow this philosophy and incorporate it into my workdays as well as in my personal life.  This is important stuff and makes a difference in the world.  I could simply just do the work and not share what I know.  And, certainly, this approach would be much quicker for my part.  However, that bent does not help the organization for the long term so I choose to teach them.  I show them what I am doing, why I am doing it and how the various pieces fit together to make up the whole that is their organization.

Granted, my approach is not be the fastest route but I have found that doing the right thing seldom is.  So, while I do see the value in the fish themselves as tasty treats, I try to follow Miamonides’ philosophy and see more value in “teaching ‘em how to fish”.