When I mentioned to my pal Michelle that I was writing
a sequel to The Secrets of Consulting, she shook her head in disbelief.
"Why don't you quit while you're ahead? Don't you believe your own preaching?
What about The Law of Raspberry Jam?"
was referring to the law that describes how any Great Message gets diluted when
carried too far: "The wider you spread it, the thinner it gets." She
doubted that a second volume could be as good as the first.
she continued, "I'll grant that your first book was pretty good, so why didn't
you stop when you were ahead? Are you just trying to cash in on its success?"
"Well, truthfully, Michelle, I am trying to cash in on the success
of Secrets. Should I be ashamed of that?"
you're not giving value to your readers."
I said. "I'll start the book by letting the readers know what kind of value
they can expect. So, let's try an analysis."
I explained to Michelle
that up until now, Secrets has sold about 100,000 copies, and that many
readers have told me how much they have increased their annual consulting income
by applying such secrets as The Ten Laws of Pricing, The Orange Juice Test, Marvin's
Great Secrets, The Buffalo Bridle, and The Ten Laws of Marketing. Hearing this,
she mentioned that it had increased her income, too.
"By how much?"
"Oh, at least ten thousand dollars per year, and that would
"Okay," I said, "so, assuming that
each copy was read at least once, those readers have increased their earnings
by one billion dollars per year in aggregate. And that's every year from now on."
"Okay," she said. "I'll buy a copy."
Well, if you're like Michellethe type who believes in
numbersthat analysis ought to convince you, too. If this book is even half
as good as the first, it will still be filled with enough jam to make it a delicious
But what if you're not like Michelle? What if you need general principles
to convince you? Then you'll have to read on, and learn about The Law of Strawberry
Young visionaries are discouraged by The Law of Raspberry Jam because
they would like to believe that their message would remain thick as they spread
it far and wide. But they need not be discouraged, even though no vision retains
uniform thickness as it spreads. Although raspberry jam keeps getting thinner
on your morning toast, any fine strawberry jam behaves quite differently.
a bit of raspberry jam on a few slices of bread, and you'll see each stroke get
thinner and thinner. But if you try the same trick with strawberry preserves,
you'll notice that no matter how much you try to spread it, the lumps remain!
Or, in the words of The Law of Strawberry Jam,
as it has lumps, you can never spread it too thin.
strawberry jam, the lumps are strawberries. In your Great Message, the lump is
you. What lumps are to strawberry jam, you are to your Great Message. As long
as your medium of communication involves your own body in the flesh speaking,
writing, huggingyour message cannot be infinitely diluted. That's why I
decided to write this volume about you, the individual consultant. I want to provide
the personal tools you need to make your messages as lumpy as possiblecertainly
lumpier than those conveyed by the cloned consultants who issue forth from the
big consulting factories every day.
The Law of Grape Jelly
is not an age of strawberry jam. Grape jelly seems to be the favorite covering
for the American Restaurant Toastit's absolutely without lumps or even tiny
seeds. In fact, it's absolutely without taste, which eliminates complaints. You
might complain that the jam tastes "off," but you can hardly complain
that it has no taste whatsoever.
Not having lumps, grape jelly is perfect
for processing through manufacturing machines. It's that lumpy third dimensionthe
depththat makes mass production impractical. Grape jelly spreads infinitely
thin, so the consumer can color a predictable number of slices of toast out of
a single sterilized plastic container. With strawberry jam, there's always the
danger of finding a lump, thus consuming the entire "portion control"
container on a single slice of toast.
Jelly contains no surprises and it's
cheaper to manufacture than jamthese two properties combine to yield The
Law of Grape Jelly:
Nobody ever bothers to complain about
The Law of Grape Jelly is a law about expectations.
Another way of stating this law was one of my father's favorites:
If you don't expect much, you'll never be disappointed.
the sale of ideas, you can also adopt a grape jelly marketing philosophy. If you're
presenting a course, it's best from the distributor's point of view to have it
reduced to an outline totally lacking in lumps, so that it can be taught by any
of a dozen cloned lecturers. Even better is to have it reduced to a video tape
or disk that can be played anywhere and give a uniformly thin result. This approach
serves to eliminate the bad lumps at the same time it strains out the good ones.
Nobody ever found an entire caterpillar in their grape jelly. By eliminating lumpy
people, you get uniform, but thin, quality.
Manufactured items are designed
to be built from identical components by a series of processes that require not
the slightest individuality on the part of the assemblers. Similarly, many office
procedures are reduced to steps that can be carried out by anybody who can fog
a mirror. Like grape jelly on white toast, the results of these processes aren't
superbly satisfying, but at least they're uniform and entirely predictable. Best
of all, no one complains.
The Lump Law
In another book of
mine, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking, I introduced The Lump
If we want to learn anything, we mustn't try to learn
In other words, it
pays to choose your lumps.
By applying The Lump Law (see, I do use my own
principles), I convinced myself that like The Secrets of Consulting, this
book will not attempt to cover everything a consultant ought to know. Instead,
I will confine myself to a few essential tools that every consultantand
really everyone who ever gives or seeks adviceshould always have close at
hand. Hence the subtitle, The Consultant's Tool Kit.
Many of the
other things that a consultant ought to know can be found in the books of Peter
Block, who has certainly taught me a great deal. In an interview with Peter, Paula
Jacobs asked: "What do you see as the single most important life lesson for
consultants?" He answered as follows:
The person is the
product. Working on becoming a more authentic, whole person is the best business
strategy. We are selling an intangible service, so clients have no way of knowing
what they will be getting and whether they can derive value from what they get.
. . . [the] more direct we are, the better human contact we make, the more centered
and self aware we are, the more likely the client will see us as someone who they
can lean on, someone who delivers on promises, someone they can learn from. 
That's exactly why I'm going to concentrate here on those tools that most help
me to be direct, more centered, more self-aware, and more in contact with other
people. I've derived these tools from a set that was originally given to me by
the great family therapist, Virginia Satir. When she wrote the foreword to The
Secrets of Consulting, I was just beginning to appreciate the depth of her
teachings. Now, they have permeated all aspects of my life.
Virginia, like me, was fond of metaphors and collected them
from a profusion of sources, such as The Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum. Remember
how the Wizard gave the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Man a heart, the Cowardly Lion
a badge of courage, and Dorothy the power to go home. The Wizard's great secret
was that each of them already possessed the tools they thought they lacked. The
Wizard's job was merely to remind them.
From this idea, Virginia developed
her idea of the "self-esteem tool kit"a set of resources that
each of us owns but often forgets to use when we're feeling powerless. As a consultant,
out there alone in a sometimes unappreciative world, I've frequently reminded
myself of the metaphors in Virginia's original kit:
Wisdom Boxthe ability to know what's right and what's not right for
me. Without a Wisdom Box, I would find myself forever working in situations that
violated my principles, or for which I had no energy.
The Golden Keythe
ability to open up new areas for learning and practicing, and to close them if
they don't fit for me at this time. Without this Golden Key, my consulting would
become narrowly focused, or focused on areas in which I was no longer interested.
Courage Stickthe courage to try new things and to risk failure. Without
my Courage Stick, my consulting turns to grape jelly.
The Wishing Wandthe
ability to ask for what I want, and if necessary, to live with not getting it.
Without the ability to ask for what I want, I am powerless to be an effective
The Detective Hat, sometimes teamed with The Magnifying
Glassthe ability to examine data and to reason about those data. Without
analytical abilities, I would become a solution-problemera vendor
of off-the-shelf, portion-controlled solutionsrather than a problem-solver
responding to my clients' real needs.
The Yes/No Medallionthe
ability to say yes, the ability to say no (thank you), and the ability to mean
what I say. Without a yes that means yes and a no that means no, I would pander
to my clients' prejudices and my advice would be worthless.
six tools formed Virginia's self-esteem tool kit, as I learned it. Over the years,
however, various colleagues have helped me add other tools to my personal version
of the kit:
The Heartthe ability and willingness
to put my heart into my work. My colleague Jean McLendon introduced The Heart
to my kit; she explained that Virginia left it out of her kit because she assumed
people always have access to their heart. Working in technical environments, though,
I've learned that I often need to be reminded of the hopes and wishes and fears
and sensitivities of others. The Heart gives me that nudge when I need it.
Mirrorthe ability to see myself and to seek and use feedback.
I'd always known that feedback was important for personal growth, but I learned
much more about it as I worked with Edie and Charlie Seashore on our book about
feedback, What Did You Say?  Feedback is the mirror
by which I can see myself and monitor how I am affecting those around mebut
it only works if I remember to look in that mirror that others offer.
Telescopethe ability to see others and to bring them closer to
my understanding than my naked eye and brain can manage. My Telescope partners
with my Mirror, which reminds me to see myself.
The Fish-Eye Lensthe
ability to see the context, what surrounds me and others and influences
us as we work together. It reminds me to use the many observational and
analytical tools I already have, many of which I've written about in my books
yet fail to recall when I most need them. Together, The Mirror, The Telescope,
and The Fish-Eye Lens equip me with the self, other, and context from Virginia's
model of congruencethe ingredients that must be balanced if I am to be congruent.
Gyroscopethe ability to be balanced, to use all of my tools, and to
be congruent or centered. My father gave me my first gyroscope, and to this day,
I remain fascinated by its ability to restore its balance when disturbed. Sometimes,
I think that The Gyroscope is too complex a tool for my kit, but then I remember
that restoring balance to my life is complex and that it is something I
must always try to do.
The Eggthe ability to grow, develop,
and learn, using all the parts of myself that I need. Although I like to collect
eggsbeautiful stone ones, usuallyI'm allergic to the chicken kind.
Perhaps this allergy explains why I took so long to associate The Egg with Virginia
Satir's Seed Modelthe concept that each of us comes into the world with
all the tools we need to be complete human beings. When I'm stuck, my Egg reminds
me of the many tools I don't realize I haveand of my ability to choose or
create my own tools.
The Carabinerthe ability to ensure my
safety and to not take unnecessary risksso I can take risks when
necessary. For those of you not familiar with mountain climbing, the carabiner
is a metal loop used to attach climbing ropes to pitonshooks embedded in
a cliff face. They are meant to prevent climbers from the dangers of falling.
Linda Swirczek, who was an avid climber, gave me The Carabiner for my self-esteem
tool kit. The Carabiner gives me that moment to double-check my actions, so I
can move ahead with the confidence the situation requires.
ability to tickle myself and others, and not to take things, or myself, too seriously.
I learned about tickling from my father, Harry Weinberg, though it was a long
time before I learned much about the right timing for tickles. The Feather reminds
me that, as Oscar Wilde said, "Life is too important to be taken seriously."
Hourglassthe ability to make time for the good and to make good use
of time. For me, The Hourglass is one of my most important tools because it's
one that I tend to forget.
The Oxygen Maskthe symbol for a
balanced life. It reminds me of my ability to breathe, which symbolizes my need
to take care of myself before attempting to help others. My colleague Eileen Strider
added The Oxygen Mask to my kit, reminding me of the safety instructions given
on planes: "Before helping others with their oxygen mask, be sure your own
mask is securely in place and operating properly." My Oxygen Mask reminds
me to operate from a healthy place, the place from which I'm most likely to be
able to help others, rather than inflict help that may prove harmful should I
crash and burn and fail to follow through. The Oxygen Mask reminds me to use all
of my other tools and to keep myself healthy and sane.
that's my tool kit as it stands today, and it serves me well in my roles as consultant,
friend, husband, father, grandfather, and most of all, human being. I hope you'll
join me in the following chapters as I show you how I use these tools. I know
my kit isn't complete, though, and perhaps someday you will help me add the tools
that you've found useful in your consultant's tool kit.
Gerald M. Weinberg, The Secrets of Consulting (New York: Dorset House Publishing,
2. Gerald M. Weinberg, An Introduction to General Systems
Thinking: Silver Anniversary Edition (New York: Dorset House Publishing, 2001),
3. Paula Jacobs, interview with Peter Block, CPUniverse Newsletter
(Oct. 27, 2000).
4. C. Seashore, E. Seashore, and G.M. Weinberg, What
Did You Say? The Art of Giving and Recieving Feedback (North Attleboro, Mass.:
Douglas Charles Press, 1992).