[by Sean Kernan]
Remember this game? It stands for The Exciting Game Without Any Rules, and it’s a card game that is played by a number of sharps and one patsy.
The way it works is that a few basic poker-like rules are put out and the game starts. At some point the patsy thinks he has won a hand. But then it is explained to him that there is actually an exception to the rule by which he thinks he won.
So if he comes up with two pair and goes to claim the pot, it is pointed out that if three of the cards are black and one is red, then the two-colored pair doesn’t count and it also negates the other pair. That kind of thing.
The fun—if you think that tormenting innocents is fun—lies in the making up of increasingly baroque rules and watching the growing confusion of the patsy player. The most successful outcome is when the patsy never gets what is happening. The worst would be if they did get it and went postal.
You get the idea, Now tell me, doesn’t this feel like some of the projects we do for clients? I’ve certainly had jobs in which I feel I’m being gamed in this way. But when it happens, none of the other players are actually in on it. In fact, they are as confused as I am but they don’t want to admit it.
So it becomes a special skill to get people to be definitive, to fix their positions—for them as well as for you—and to collate all the different and often conflicting agendas and put something out there that everyone can sign off on.
It can feel like you’re in a special corner of hell when this happens, but really it is part of the job. And by being the one with feet on the ground, you serve your clients by just getting them clear enough to get work done. You can’t bill for it, but the clarity you bring to a situation can be one of the reasons that people come back to you.
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