By Paul Thoresen, SIOP Blogger
On the premiere episode, of House of Lies (a Showtime Original Series) “management consultants” are painted as soulless opportunists. With the tagline Survival of the Slickest, this should not be very surprising to most. The show’s first episode portrays the main protagonist (played by Don Cheadle) attempting to win over clients with flattery, meaningless jargon, and several other less than productive tactics. Is this the general impression that the public holds for those who consult to management?
It seems the show gives a laundry list of what not to do with clients as a management consultants. Included in this list of don’ts…..
- Excessive billing of expenses to the client
- Very unprofessional behavior (“adult situations”, violence, etc)
- Purposeful extensions of billable hours to milk the client
The pilot was entertaining and even though the main characters may not be likable yet, the show may be intriguing. Also, they never mention I/O Psychology, but one team member (played by Kristen Bell who you may remember from Veronica Mars) has a degree in “business psychology”. My guess is that we will shudder to see what she says and does, just as our clinical cousins typically do not want to see how therapists are portrayed 95% of the time in TV and movies. That said, quantitative terms such as “regression” were cited at least once during the episode. Although never to the level of detail of R Squared, a probability of 87% was used when discussing a predictive model (as a disclaimer, the model did not have much to do with the prospective client). Hopefully we can distance ourselves from the unethical behavior of the team.
Surprisingly, a tenable solution was ultimately offered to the potential client and a contract secured. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Only the rest of the season will tell. They did use their crack team of wunderkind to analyze the company data and present an unexpected solution. It was not an I/O solution per se, but it made sense from a data-based perspective as it incorporated projections, customer loyalty and other areas that overlap with our profession. Will the rest of the season increase a bit of visibility for those of us who may fall loosely under the “management consultants” umbrella? Will that visibility be more damaging than productive? The show is designed to be a scathing look at the field of management consulting. Perhaps it is more applicable to those who consult with MBA type backgrounds. That said, the mass media paints with a very wide brush. I for one will watch a few more episodes to see what direction the plot develops into and see what kind of shenanigans the ensemble team gets into. I am not saying the show is brilliant, but certainly the show portrays this consulting team to have a bad foundation and time will tell what kind of house that builds.
Have you watched the show? What are your thoughts?