Crisp DNA

The inner workings of a rather different consulting company

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Our business

Formally, Crisp doesn’t really have a business area. We are consultants and people can do whatever they want. Nothing about our model is specific to any domain or industry.

In practice though, because of our history and the people who happen to work at Crisp, we’ve evolved two main business areas:

  1. Software development. Mostly on top of the Java VM. Mostly longer engagements and close to full-time.
  2. Agile/Lean coaching and training. Mostly shorter engagements or part-time.

That is, most Crispers happen to spend most of their time in one of those two areas. Some have one foot in each though.

Example: Some time around 2006 Henrik started writing books and articles on agile stuff, and clients started asking for agile coaching. This was a new business area for Crisp, but he didn’t have to ask for permission - he just went ahead and did it! And gradually other people within Crisp started getting interested, and we attracted new Crispers with a coaching profile. Within a few years, Crisp had become pretty much a world leader within the field of agile coaching and training. And without any formal decision to even enter that business. Pretty cool! Here’s more on how we build the brand.

Also, there are some industries that we avoid.

Different “species” of Crispers

We sometimes use a funny animal metaphor to talk about different types of engagements. Most Crispers fall into one of these categories (although it can change over time). At our bi-yearly unconference all animals get together on a rock and make noise together!

Seal consultants

Seal consultant

A Seal is faithful and dedicated to one single client pretty much full-time. The Seal consultant takes a deep breath, dives in, and then stays under water with the client for months (hmmm… perhaps Whale would be a better metaphor). Seals normally don’t have as much time for other stuff such as teaching courses, but we do attend a few conferences. Once in a while a Seal will pop up above the surface, take a deep breath & learn some new stuff, perhaps find a new client, and then dive deep again.

Seal work takes patience and dedication. You need to take special care not to go too deep too long (you might get the bends), and remember to come up for breath once in a while to expand your horizons. You also need to select your clients carefully since the decision has a big impact on your daily life.

Seals are usually cute and playful.

Albatross consultants

Albatross consultant

Some of us are Albatross consultants. We sail around high in the sky and travel great distances. Once in a while we plunge into the water and grab a juicy fish, then up into the sky again. The Albatross gets to see many different places – but doesn’t stay still long enough to get to know any single client well. The Albatross is flexible and free. No client will complain if the Albatross decides to spend a week attending a conference or writing a book. On the downside, the Albatross spends a significant amount of his time coordinating with his clients and fiddling with his schedule trying to make everything fit together.

The Albatross has to be careful not to sail too high into the clouds and lose touch with reality (or get the altitude bends). It can get lonely and insecure up there in the sky, always on the move, not having your own cozy little cubicle to call home. The returns are great but freedom does have a price.

Albatrosses are usually swift and graceful. They can also be a bit absent-minded and noisy.

Duck consultants

Duck consultant

Some of us are Duck consultants – a compromise between the Seal and the Albatross.

Like the Seal, we have one specific client that we focus on. Unlike the Seal, however, we don’t spend all our time under water with that one client. Like the Albatross, we sometimes spread our wings and visit other clients or teach courses or attend conferences. But the Duck has one particular pond that he likes to return to, a client that has gotten to know well and perhaps spends one or two days per week with. Long enough to get to know the client, but not long enough to get below the surface.

Ducks are usually pretty and funny. They look calm, but underneath the surface they are paddling furiously!

Anglerfish consultants

Anglerfish consultant

Some of us used to be Anglerfish consultants before joining Crisp.

Anglerfish are way down in the dark, lost, wandering aimlessly with nothing but a small artificial light to guide them. Sometimes they are lucky and manage to attract a small fish. As opposed to the Albatross, the Anglerfish can’t see the horizon and doesn’t choose where to go – it just floats around and eats whatever scraps it happens to bump into. The Anglerfish never goes up to the surface to see the big picture or learn something new – in fact, he doesn’t even know the direction to the surface.

Anglerfish are usually ugly and scary. Fortunately we don’t have any at Crisp :o)