A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully

(also translated into Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, German, Korean)

ISBN: 0-932633-01-3 248 pages

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Consulting may be defined as the art of influencing people at their request. The Secrets of Consulting takes you behind the scenes of that art, explaining in detail why the world of consulting seems so irrational, and some very practical steps you can take to make it more rational. Topics include: Gaining control of change, marketing and pricing your services, what to do when they resist your ideas, and more.


The Secrets of Consulting has been used in dozens of different fields.

Here’s a review written for lawyers, from


Think like a lawyer with “The Secrets of Consulting” by Gerald M. Weinberg

I love The Secrets of Consulting. This book is witty and wise. I like to go back to it to and re-read its memorable laws. Here are some of my favorites. I think they can teach us a few things about thinking like a lawyer:

The Law of the Hammer: “The child who receives a hammer for Christmas will discover that everything needs pounding.”

The following is my version for legal professionals: “A student who learns to think like a lawyer will discover that anything can be turned into an argument.” On a more serious note, this law reminds me that specialists sometimes suffer from the tunnel vision that prevents them from seeing out-of-the-box solutions.

“If you can’t think of three things that might go wrong with your plans, then there’s something wrong with your thinking.”

When you think like a lawyer, you look for anything that can go wrong.

Prescott’s Pickle Principle: “Cucumbers get more pickled than brine gets cucumbered.”

This principle is about ethics and autonomy. It tells us that it can be challenging to preserve independent thinking when you deal with a large and important client. Recent corporate scandals show that even legal counsels

can get “pickled” in the corporate “brine.”

“What you don’t know may not hurt you, but what you don’t remember always does.”

This principle highlights the importance of setting reminders, or triggers, for yourself and your clients of all things that you need to remember. Do you have a system for that?

From Harry Browne’s list of recommended readings:

“Secrets of Consulting, by Gerald Weinberg, is much more than about giving advice successfully. It’s a guide that recognizes and respects the individuality and freedom of each person you deal with – in business and social dealings. It’s clear-eyed and clever and fun to read. Highly recommended.”

– from the book, How I Found Freedom In An Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty, by Harry Browne, 25th Anniversary Edition, Liam Works, Great Falls, Montana, 1998

Here’s a review about Secrets that Holly Green sent to the OD Network

From: [email protected] (Green, Holly)

Just had to share a recommendation for a book that I think many of the subscribers to this list will enjoy. After boring to death someone sitting beside me on a recent flight discussing what it is I do (or try to do), I received The Secrets of Consulting: A guide to giving and getting advice successfully by Gerald Weinberg in the mail from him. This has got to be one of the funniest looks at consulting I have ever seen. It has so many nuggets of “real truth” in it.

I swear I am not related to Gerald, the author, nor do I get any commission off of the book sales, but for all of you involved in OD (thus in consulting either internally or externally), this is a MUST READ!

Here’s a quote from Computerworld, about what Christine Comaford says:

“The skills that consultants and contractors need most, says Christine Comaford, 34, are perseverance, the ability to learn quickly and fearlessness – all skills she used to become the first female contract programmer at Microsoft Corp., at age 25. planetU, her fifth company, is an Internet-based promotions company.

Technical skills are important, she says, “but if you want to get ahead as a contractor, you have to understand how businesses run and have a good bedside manner.” As a guide, Comaford recommends a paperback called The Secrets of Consulting,. It helped her better understand the nature of consulting and, ultimately, raise her fees. She now charges $6,500 per day for consulting, and her clients include Vice President Al Gore.”

Review by Mary Sakry, The Process Group, www.processgroup.com

In this book Gerald Weinberg uses entertaining prose littered with humorous paradoxes, dilemmas and contradictions to share his ideas on how to deal with people and organizations to help them change. This book is full of ideas on how to work with people to get them to adopt new ideas.

One of my favorite concepts is the role of a “jiggler.” A jiggler gets an organization unstuck by providing a small change in how the client sees the world. Weinberg gives many ideas on how to perform this role. Jiggling can be done verbally and is best done by asking simple questions that change how people think.

Some of his ideas in the book are:

1) It is more satisfying to help people solve their problems in such a way that they will be more likely to solve their next problem without help.

2) You can be satisfied with your accomplishments, even if clients don’t give you credit.

3) Your ideal form of influence is first to help people see their world more clearly, and then to let them decide what to do next.

He gives the example of problem ownership with easy-bake box cakes where you add your own egg because the manufacturers want the result to be “your” ake.

I leave the rest of the gems for you to discover on your own.

All the rules of thumb you need to be or hire a consultant!,

Reviewer: [email protected] from Eindhoven, Netherlands (Source: Amazon.com)

This is the most funny AND instructive book I ever read about consulting. I own two copies – one for my own use, and one floating around loaned out to colleagues. Weinberg uses examples you simply won’t forget.

Easily one of the BEST books in any field

Reviewer: Michael F. Maddox from Tallahassee, Florida USA (Source: Amazon.com)

Although such tomes generally fall into one of two categories: simple “self-help” books or overly technical treatises, SECRETS straddles the line between the two, offering extremely useful and practical advice that is obviously mined from years of experience. Having heard the praise this book has earned for years, I recently purchased the book and read it over the course of a single day of travel – a day of personal epiphany.

Gerald Weinberg covers the key aspect of the consulting business: getting and giving advice. He vividly illustrates the sometimes difficult-to-understand fact that the business is about making money while problem solving, NOT about getting personal credit. His advice will aid in building confidence in yourself, and in your ability to hear and analyze the environments in which you problem-solve.

This book is a simple, quick read – a MUST read for anyone interested in improving their consulting skills.

A way of life

Reviewer: Sylvain Trudel from Boucherville, Quebec, Canada (Source: Amazon.com)

I read this book in 1988 and 12 years later, I still apply some rules from this great book!

Looking back, this is THE book that greatly influenced my personal life and my career as a CAD specialist.

Marvin’s Third Great Secrets : “Every prescription has two parts: the medicine and the method of ensuring correct use.”

Get a copy of this book.

Quotable Book

Reviewer: Warren Postma from Ontario, Canada (Source: Amazon.com)

The thing is that he knows that by titling a chapter “Rudy’s Law of Rutabaga” rather than titling it “How to Keep Problems in Perspective” he has helped you to remember his points. They keep coming to me when I’m in a situation. I must have explained Rudy’s Law of Rutabaga a few hundred times to friends, family, and clients.

Whether you are employed by a company, or you are an independant consultant, you are asked to give and take advice, and to solve problems. As a programmer, I found this book very useful, but the book does not really have anything to do with programming, or consulting. It’s more about dealing with the problems, giving and accepting advice, and maintaining a helpful [and professional] demeanour in the midst of an essentially human [and therefore not essentially technical] set of problems.

Best advice: never promise to solve a problem. Promise 10% improvement to a working system at best. A doubling of productivity/throughput makes you you look good, at someone else’s else’s expense. That person then becomes your enemy. Not worth it.