A bloody yet edifying story about consultancy
This is the bloody but ultimately edifying tale about “The Bonnie Situation”; I use this story as a metaphor for what consultancy is all about - solving problems. You’ll be introduced to Mr. Wolf - ‘Winston’ for those on first name terms - and you will see why we consider him a role model for any consultant.
The story you are about to read is a retelling of a chapter in Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction - ranked #7 on IMDB’s list of all-time best movies.
Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega are sitting in front of a car. On the back seat is the young man Marvin. This has been the worst day in Marvin’s life, a life which is about to come to an end real soon.
Just before this car ride, Jules and Vincent had gone to an apartment in Los Angeles where four young boys were having their breakfast (Big Kahuna Burgers). The purpose of their visit was to collect a briefcase of something very precious, something which these young men had neglected to deliver to their business partner, Mr. Marcellus Wallace. Marcellus is Vincent and Jules’s boss - hence the visit.
They have successfully collected Marcellus’ briefcase and they have also killed three of the four young boys - the fourth being Marvin who was in on the job as an insider.
One of the three boys that Vincent and Jules shot in the apartment actually managed to empty his gun at the two - but all six bullets missed. Jules claims it was a miracle. Vincent calls it a coincidence - now they are having a deranged conversation on the subject of divine intervention.
The conversation between Jules and Vincent is leading nowhere, Vincent turns towards Marvin on the back seat:
Vincent: Marvin, what do you make of all this? Marvin: Man!!! I don't even have an opinion! Vincent: Well, you gotta have an opinion! I mean, do you think that God came down from heaven and stopped those bull... --- Vincent's gun goes off: BANG! ---
Mostly as a habit, Jules is holding a gun in his hand. Suddenly the gun goes off and now Marvin’s brain is all over the ‘74 Chevy Nova.
Both Jules and Vincent start to panic. They have to get the car off the road, PRONTO! But, despite the seriousness of the situation, they sidetrack to a discussion whether or not there was or wasn’t a bump in the road.
Jules makes a phone call to his friend, Jimmie, who lives nearby. They have to use his garage for a couple of hours.
In the meantime, Jimmie isn’t especially thrilled about the fact that his house has now become a storage facility for corpses. His wife Bonnie will be home from work in one and a half hours and he will surely get divorced if she finds a dead body in her house. Both Vincent and Jules understand the severity of The Bonnie Situation, it’s just that they haven’t got a clue on how to solve it.
Jimmie clearly doesn’t think that Jules and Vincent have the situation under control. Jules calls their boss, Marcellus, and fills him in on the problem. Marcellus starts to analyze the situation, which only makes Jules panic even more:
Jules: All I wanna hear from your as is: "You ain't got no problems Jules - I'm on the motherfucker - Go back in there and chill them niggers out and wait for the cavalry which will be coming - directly". Marcellus: You ain't got no problems Jules - I'm on the motherfucker - Go back in there and chill them niggers out and wait for the Wolf which will be coming - directly. Jules: ...Are you sending the wolf? Marcellus: Do you feel better, motherfucker? Jules: Shit negro! That's all you had to say!
Nine minutes and twenty seconds later, the door bell rings at Jimmie’s house. Jimmie opens the door. Outside is Mr. Wolf: “You are Jimmie! right? This is your house! I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems”
They now have 40 minutes left to solve “The Bonnie Situation”. Mr. Wolf is taking the lead and lays out a very detailed plan on how to clean brains out of a 1974 Chevy Nova. Jimmie provides the cleaning products.
Eventually, the car gets cleaned up and the two unlucky fellows get a good wash by the garden hose. Jimmie finds some of his old clothes they can wear. Quite a bit more casual that what they are used to, but surely good enough.
Along with all this work going on, Mr. Wolf manages to ease Jimmie into a sentiment where he is quite calm and relaxed, despite the fact that Bonnie is probably already on her way home from work. Mr. Wolf drops off the car, with the dead body of Marvin in the trunk, at Monster Joe’s Car dismantling site.
Just before he takes off himself with Monster Joe’s daughter Rachel, Jules and Vincent thank him sincerely.
Jules: Mr. Wolf! I just wanna tell you: It's been a real pleasure watching you work! Vincent: Yeah, I agree! Thank you very much, Mr. Wolf! Mr. Wolf: Call me Winston.
The Bonnie Situation and the characters in it are a great metaphor for what consultancy in the software development industry is all about. We use all these characters as personas - the interpretation should be obvious.
In the real world of our consulting, where our clients are all engaged in software development and have very skilled employees, we work together with customers and facilitate them. This is how we use the characters as personas:
Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega are the personnel employed by the customer. They are the ones that need consultancy! If one of our customers read this, they might get somewhat disgruntled by that comparison, as it appears that, at least in the very beginning, they are doing a rather poor job. But looking back on their course of action after The Bonnie Situation has been resolved, they actually did The Right Thing. They requested help and participated very actively in the problem solving.
Both Jules and Vincent have a lot of great and unquestionable qualities and skills within their own specific domains of expertise. In one scene, Vincent is babysitting Marcellus Wallace’s wife - Miss Mia - and takes her out dancing which he does in a truly convincing manner. Jules, as it turns out, is actually a very thoughtful man with a deep and profound understanding of what life is all about. On top of that he has excellent communication skills, as he reveals in the delicate situation with Honey Bunny and Pumpkin at the diner.
They both have their areas they really shine in.
Like the customer’s personnel, Jules and Vincent are very competent at handling difficult situations on the home court (e.g. picking up the briefcase for Marcellus, remember? That was a very delicate situation they handled very well!). But, every now and then, even talented people find themselves in a situation they don’t have the means of dealing with, they simply need help from experts.
Why is The Bonnie Situation such an interesting story that Tarantino finds it worth telling? Sure, it’s fascinating to see Mr. Wolf’s charisma and talent laid out in front of you. But the twist of the story, which makes it a good one, is that Jules and Vincent practically do all the actual work themselves. They just needed a guide.
Now that you know the story about The Bonnie Situation, we can introduce the same term to be a metaphor for The Customer’s Problem. It stands for some delicate situation that requires a solution within a limited time and with limited resources, where failure is not an option. It’s a situation that requires on-site help from an expert.
Jimmie, and potentially also Bonnie, are being dragged into Vincent and Jules’ business without really wanting to. Sure, Jimmie wants to help his friend Jules with his problem, but he doesn’t want to get a divorce doing it.
As he says to the blood soaked Jules when he’s standing in front of him in his own kitchen: There is nothing you can say that can make me forget that I love my wife! Is there?
Jimmie insists that, even if he is indeed suffering from the problem that Vincent and Jules opposed upon him, he still has no part in it, and therefore he’s only willing to take part in the solution to a very limited extent. He is giving them some leash, but his demands are basically non-negotiable. In other words: Jimmie and Bonnie are the source of all the pressure currently on Jules and Vincent!
It’s like that in the real world too; The only reason for any piece of software to exist is, at the end of the day, to make the intended users happy and there is nothing you can say that can make them forget that.
Marcellus Wallace is the obvious person Jules can call and expect to get help. He needs to flag this delicate situation to his boss. His own understanding of the situation is that he needs the entire cavalry. Marcellus asks Jules for details about the The Bonnie Situation and, based on his analysis, takes full ownership of the problem and gives Jules what he needs; Not an entire army, but the Wolf.
Management that behaves like this really does an excellent job. They listen carefully and, without hesitation, acknowledges and takes full ownership of the problem. They organize facilitation of their own people, rather than bringing in the entire cavalry.
Mr. Wolf represents the consultant. I don’t know for sure how many times Mr. Wolf has been in charge of cleaning the brains out of a ‘74 Chevy Nova, but my guess would be zero. Nevertheless, when Marcellus calls him, fills him in on the situation and gives him the address of Jimmie’s house, he replies: “It’s thirty minutes away - I’ll be there in ten”. He gives The Bonnie Situation his full attention and, even though it’s very likely a new situation for him, it resembles the many other situations he has dealt with in his time. He doesn’t hesitate at all.
When he arrives at Jimmie’s house, we find out that Vincent and Jules are actually both quite competent after all. As we already pointed out, they ended up doing the most of the actual work themselves, despite the fact that they weren’t capable of doing anything until Mr. Wolf arrived.
Mr. Wolf’s professionalism is so radiant that he manages to set the mood in the house to a level where everybody ends up believing that they will eventually make it, even Jimmie is calmed down.
At some point, Jimmie has a one-on-one conversation with Mr. Wolf about the fact that all the sheets and linen he’s letting Vincent and Jules use to cover the insides of the ‘74 Chevy Nova were wedding presents for him and Bonnie from uncle Conrad and aunt Ginny, who have both passed away.
Mr. Wolf: Your uncle Conrad and aunt Ginny, were they millionaires? Jimmie: No. Mr. Wolf: Well, your uncle Marcellus is. Mr. Wolf: And I'm positive that if uncle Conrad and aunt Ginny were here, they would furnish you with a whole bedroom set. Which your uncle Marcellus is more than happy to do. --- Mr. Wolf pulls out a fat bundle of dollar bills from his pocket --- Mr. Wolf: I like oak myself, that's what I have in my bedroom. How about you Jimmie - You an oak man? Jimmi: Oak's nice!
Again Mr. Wolf delivers more than what’s expected from him, and doing so is exactly what builds strong and lasting relationships.
Let’s recap: Jules and Vincent end up in a bad situation in an unfriendly neighborhood, he calls his friend Jimmie who lets them use his garage, but only until Bonnie comes home. Jules then calls his boss Marcellus, who calls Winston Wolf. Mr. Wolf instructs Jules and Vincent on how they should work, while at the same time easing up Jimmie by praising his coffee and paying respect to his late uncle Conrad and aunt Ginny. When he needs to get rid of the car, he gets help from Monster Joe who dismantles and disposes of cars, in the end he proudly takes off with Joe’s daughter Rachel, who he presents to Jules and Vincent with the words “This is Monster Joe’s daughter - some day all of this will be hers” - pointing to the huge piles of useless junk cars as if they were made of gold, and with that statement pays respect to both Monster Joe and Rachel in the same sentence.
The Bonnie Situation ends with the following dialog.
Jules: Mr. Wolf! I just wanna tell you: It's been a real pleasure watching you work! Vincent: Yeah, I agree! Thank you very much, Mr. Wolf! Mr. Wolf: Call me Winston.
Now they are on first name with each others. Bonds have been made.
It’s really all about relations between people. Everywhere Mr. Wolf goes he’s either maintaining his relations with people - or making new ones. These relations are his true assets, well, and his skills of course, but they are so obvious.
Mr Wolf is a role model!
Winston, now we’re on first name with the guy, should be a role model for any consultant. At the very least, he should be a character that they should strive to understand so that they themselves can learn how to exploit their own abilities and relations, as well as those of others. All this to a degree where it appears untroubled, agile and with a clear gain for all parties involved.
His own presentation of himself is “I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems.”.
If you yourself are a consultant, then our advice is: Meet you customers with that attitude. If you yourself are a customer, someone who uses consultants, then our advice is: Expect that attitude from your consultant.
The term “Wolf” plays almost as a philosophy. It captures the essence of what we’re doing and represents the values of who we are and our approach to helping customers.
Wolves excel when the customer is quite competent and ambitious himself. The customer wouldn’t normally go and hire a Wolf unless the problem is of such a nature that an on-site expert is really needed.
Wolves are consultants in the Winston Wolf League. They are skilled far above average, and they have that I solve problems attitude. They will pull the necessary strings in their personal network to solve the problem. They may not have encountered every single “Bonnie Situation” out there, but they have solved so many different Bonnie Situations that you can tell without a doubt that solving problems is their business.
Wolves turn the “The lone wolf” metaphor on its head. The consultants are not lone predators. Surely they are all capable of working alone, but they are now gathered in a pack where they exploit each others strengths - to a sum that reveals no weaknesses.
Wolves are generous. It’s means taking the time and energy to praise another man’s gourmet coffee, even if you are really there to clean up another man’s brain. Giving your best even when it’s more than what was expected. Wolves under-commit and over-deliver.
Wolves have that I solve problems attitude. It’s an avalanche of not-afraid and at the same time never throwing dice with death. Failure is not an option. The problem will be solved, one way or another. We never lose.
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