Consultants complain when their customers respond to questions with, “We’ve always done it that way.” However, consultants sometimes do the same thing.

Customers Who Tell Us “We’ve Always Done it That Way”

Stop it! Yes, that’s right. We’re onto you and we’re going to keep after you until we get a more definite answer. That’s our job and we’ll keep it at. It’s our job to ask the most important question, which is, “Why?”


Yes, now that I’ve said that, I feel a sense of relief that it’s just out there. Customers I’ve previously worked with know it’s hard but worthwhile.

We Don’t Always Like the Answers

Sometimes, we get great information by digging down into customer responses. Occasionally, we realize that we’ve uncovered something archaic that it no longer has meaning. Other times, it just means it’s something so routine that no-one remembers its history, but it’s still important.

On the other hand, we occasionally run into situations where we really don’t like the answer and can’t change it. When a customer tells me that the real reason is because their boss told them to do it, made it clear their job is on the line to do it that way, and that their boss doesn’t accept any questioning – ummm… – then what do you do?

Sometimes, depending on your consulting status, if you’re there at a higher level, you can ask the boss questions the employees aren’t allowed to ask because they’re seen as minions (sad, but true). Other times, you tread a bit carefully, only to find out that the boss actually also sees you as a minion and you’re still not allowed to ask the question. So, unless you come up with something really clever, you do have to move on to something else.

When Consultants Turn the Tables on the Customers

Yes, consultants, before you think we’re off the hook and this post is meant to beat up a bit on the customers, we’re just as bad. But when we do it, we call it “best practices.”

This is our not-so-clever way of saying, “Do it my way and I don’t want to look too deeply into this and please leave me alone.”

In Either Case

Whether it’s the customer refusing to dig deeper into their workflow (“we’ve always done it that way”) or the consultant refusing to dig deeper into their proposed workflow (“best practices”), it comes down to the same problem. The people working through the “to be” workflows need to be able to dig deep to uncover the answers.

Whether the customer goes back into their standard work practices to find out more -or- and I know some will say this is just CRAZY – but this is where the consultant provides their expertise (such as our LabWare LIMS expertise) to tell the customer why they do it this way. And, if they don’t know, they go find out, just like they expect the customer to do on their end.

Customers bring on consultants to work with them because the consultant is supposed to be the expert in this. If the consultant can’t answer questions regarding their proposals, how can they be considered an expert? What is the customer paying for? These are questions to consider. Whether you’re working with something large, such as the LabWare system, or one of the smaller systems, these issues remain the same.


It’s human nature to complain a bit about each other. People like to let off steam and, if doesn’t go too far, it’s not the worst thing.

But just realize we all do pretty much the same things. Consultant or customer and we’re both human beings. And, with the same bad habits.

To keep this in perspective, just remember what Mark Twain.. “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” But I think he meant yours, not mine. 😉