Consultants are people who normally provide opinions, recommendations or an independent analysis to others, based on their own experience & expertise. We normally tend to glorify them as being the swishy and swanky professionals walking into organizations in their sparkling suits and shining boots. However, they are essentially fixers, trouble-shooters, and provide strategies to prevent problems and improve performance.
Coming to think of it and to be fair I have observed and felt this for a better part of 2 decades now, that mothers, essentially do all of these without the hue and cry of doing it, not realizing it the slightest that they do and moreover do not charge the skyrocketing fees going by the hour. In no way is this a baseless, emotional post giving mothers their due, but a point-by-point account of how they match up in comparison to our well trained, much sought after consultants.
From my own limited experience as Management Consultant, both domestically and internationally, just some of the things and not exhaustively that consultants do include the activities/tasks mentioned hereon after. With some genuine observations, a tinge of sarcasm and a pinch of salt, here’s how moms make for great consultants and about time we learn from a wealth of knowledge and skills right in our own households!
At its most basic level, this is the process of studying the current as-is scenarios and comparing them with the best of the best practices in the industry/sector or across geographies. This comes naturally to moms when they constantly compare their child with their neighbour’s or relatives’ kids on parameters of performance, marks, manners or more. Haven’t you at some point or the other been subject to this? Well I have and it is such a strange thing that when you come out on top, you do not become the benchmark, but your level is asked to be further raised!
That was just on a lighter note, to get you thinking and jog your memory of how these things happen on a daily basis, but we do not categorise these things in the right light and it just passes off as unfair comparisons or nagging, but in true spirit it is nothing but benchmarking you with the best in class.
Think of a business - small, medium or large scale, a shop or a warehouse, stocked inventory systems or customized, demand driven production, all of these cases have one thing in common, which is the management of inventory. Whether it is a simple single product business or a multi-product set up, including inventory in the form of raw materials, work-in-progress or finished goods, it requires a well thought out process and system to leverage the benefits resulting from the efficiencies.
Changing the playing field to the kitchen in a proper fully functioning household and without intending any form of gender stereotypes, kitchen management by most mothers is impeccable. Be it the sheer number of items or the variants therein that they stock, make use of and close to never run short on. Specially in an Indian household, just the number of spices or masalas, herbs, snacks, sauces would drive any person in a tizzy!
Add to it the complexity of different tastes and preferences of the members of the household (akin to customers in the business set up) leading to multiple brands, variants or grades being stocked, while keeping the constraints of space, temperature amongst others in mind.
To top it all off, the nature of these commodities is that of perishables and thus needs to be used within a certain period and be restocked on a frequent basis, while the very picky ones choose to do it every other day, the more lax ones see the practicality and push it weekly.
One of the most important, if not the most important element in a Consultant’s job is that of Market Research, followed by the in-depth analysis of the findings and making recommendations, often coupled with the aforementioned benchmarking. It may take many forms, be it primary research - observation, interviews, surveys, field trials or secondary research – focus groups, white papers, published studies and more. This makes the core foundation for any decision going forward.
Does this in any way ring a bell or bring to the fore memories of your mother going to every possible length to select the best option for you, be it the choice of school, tutors, food options, doctors, homemade remedies and more. Whether it is asking her friends or family members, reading up articles voraciously overnight or the more recent trend of gobbling up WhatsApp forwards. Getting every possible iota of information out there in front of her, evaluating the pros and cons, habitually overthinking, confirming, taking second opinions before finally relenting and deciding. Mothers can very easily give our researchers and analysts a good run for their money if put to the task.
A responsibility gaining more and more importance with passage of time and an essential task to not just create new relationships, court and land clients, but more importantly to sustain the existing ones, strengthen the equation over time and maintain the quality of service, for a fruitful and mutually benefiting union! It encompasses the entire cycle, before during, after the project at hand and at times goes above and beyond the terms and conditions put on paper.
As a focal point of the family I have seen my mother balance relationships on both sides of the family. Whether it is her friends or mine or for that matter my father’s or siblings’ friends, she has made it a point to establish a connect, howsoever small, know about them, remember them, help with their issues, assisted with choosing gifts for them or just about stayed in touch and kept a relationship alive. Sometimes even to the extent of bearing the brunt and facing the music in case of some mishap, brewing tensions or lapses. In close proximity to a Relationship Manager job profile, wherein one tries to get leads, convert them and thereafter maintain a good standing with them over periods of time, mothers tend to sustain the existing ones and evermore try to expand the circle/network of people, thereby truly protecting and nurturing relations, with a kind of compassion that is unparalleled.
Human Resource Management:
At the risk of over simplifying this function, but still trying my best to do justice to this role, effective human resource management entails scouting for the best talent or the right fit, working with them right through the selection process, ensuring a smooth deployment in the right positions, outlining the roles and responsibilities, hand holding and being a contact point in case of any troubles, while ensuring a suitable and conducive work atmosphere, coordinating between multiple departments, having performance reviews and planning for contingencies in cases of sudden departures or scaling up or down in capacity/workload.
To summarize – search, selection, deployment, assignment of roles, delegation, coordination, performance reviews, contingency planning and other ad hoc functions.
Picture this. Whether it is the service providers that serve us on a daily basis, right from the milkman, newspapers delivery, choice of grocery vendors, selecting the tutors for their kids, or the major task of maids or house-helpers, all of these decisions is done by mothers by cherry picking the best one subject to some constraints. Picking one case in point to not over complicate the issue, I select maids and house-helpers, who are not just scouted for, but grilled before being employed about their tasks and responsibilities, their timings, number of holidays expected and the compensation they expect and only then granted access into the house. Once in, the delegation of tasks and activities and shuffling them around as per need, almost on a daily basis, coordination between multiple helpers in or in case of absence of one and dealing with the stand-in person, ensuring proper hygiene is maintained, keeping a check over the activities, getting the work done and checking the ‘deliverables’, before letting them leave. All of this and lots more just intuitively becomes a part of management of helpers at home, which directly corresponds atleast in principle the management of ‘resources’ at work. Not to forget the hassles over compensation and bonuses or festive gifts and special pays which are starkly similar to the compensation dilemmas faced in corporates over performance linked or variable pays towards the end.
It was a hard call to limit these activities to just the top 5, as the more I think about and delve into it, the deeper & clearer the parallels feel between the day-to-day activities of a homemaker mother and the glossy glamorous lessons of Consulting 101. The rest of the activities could make up a whole new blog post, maybe a sequel to this one, however, just to give you a flavour of what those things are, this is a list just off the top of my mind.
· Budgeting and resource allocations – Be it financial (monthly recurring expenses or major one-time buys), distributing the limited resources between all members of the family and many other similar apportionments
· High pressure, high stress work profiles – Having just one shot at things and not allowed the luxury of iterations, or the privilege of having some downtime, working round the clock, stressing over multiple things and people
· Multi-tasking – Need I say more?
· Growth and Development Road-map – Whether for her own development or that of the entire family’s, it is a major task undertaken and carried out with the best interests and often with self-sacrifices for the greater good. Planning everything at the micro-level and ensuring adherence to the same
Some of the traits come naturally to them, while some are gathered with experience or because the become the need of the hour due to circumstances. Being quite observant and having a keen attention to detail, these were things I always observed, acknowledged and appreciated, tried to imbibe and at times expressed a sincere gratitude for, however after having been on the other side and experienced it, albeit in a corporate avatar, these similarities just cannot be erased from my mind. High time these were painted the same colour or viewed in the same light as we view the supposed brilliance of consultants and professionals, while taking for granted the same things we unmistakably see at home.
Hope this strikes a chord with each one reading this and takes you a step further to remembering some anecdote from our life where these superwoman skills of you mother left you stumped or just mighty impressed. Feel free to share those anecdotes or other similarities you can draw between our mums and consultants/professionals.