Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Rant -- My Turn at the Bully Pulpit

I read a lot of publications that come out from consulting firms, particularly their analyses of guidance from government agencies. Some of it is good, but most of it, in my humble opinion, is not. In my opinion, consulting firms should act as consultants ... to their clients, and perhaps to their prospects.

If a reader wants to read a legal document, wouldn't they turn first to a law firm? Methinks that reader would. So, for example, when reviewing, for example, the relatively new IRS regulations on hybrid plans (e.g., cash balance plans), why is the typical supposedly externally focused article have multiple citations to the minutest areas of regulations? Clients don't care where it comes from. If I tell a client that the regulation says that such and such a design is permissible under the regulations and that some other design is not, they may ask me why, but in my experience, they almost never want a regulatory citation. They hire consultants for their expertise, not to be a library card catalog that can tell the client which regulation to read.

I can't say that I adhere to these all the time, especially because I have never thought of them before, but here are my new Golden Rules for articles on benefits and compensation and other HR and Finance related issues:

  1. Keep it to 4 pages or less, unless there is no way around it. Frankly, your readers are likely bored before they get to page 3.
  2. Don't worry about which section of the regulation something is in, because most (perhaps all) of your readers don't care.
  3. Tell your readers how it may affect them.
  4. Do not try to impress your readers with words that they have to look up in the dictionary. Trust me, they won't do it. They'll stop reading instead.
  5. Write conversationally, whenever possible. That makes it comfortable for people to read. Most of them really don't like to read their analyses in the prose of Chaucer or the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare.
OK, that felt good. More later.

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