The first rule of trotter racing is to put the cart behind the horse, or is it?

Last week I helped my old friend to hire a CTO. You possibly know that I’m not a recruiter or even inclined towards that role, but I was engaged to make sure that the new person was up to the job technically with a critical business change programme in the offing.
What an unusual experience. I sort of expect this type of thing from recruiting techies, project managers and BAs into programmes, but I was shocked by the mismatch of CVs that ended up in my in-tray from three large agencies and the gross misunderstanding of my friend about what he should expect and what his business really needed.
1. There was no understanding between the agencies and my friend about what the requirement was. Not surprising given that my friend didn’t know, but nevertheless, very unprofessional on behalf of the recruitment “Consultants” he was talking to.
2. These CTO CVs ranged from Sysadmins to senior programmers and certified cloud consultants. Hardly one of them knew a business strategy from a sausage and all had their own single specialist area of expertise, so you knew before you hired them, exactly what solutions you were going to get, regardless of the problem. Hire a butcher to make lunch and what will you be eating?
In fact when I really pushed it with my friend, it turned out that deep down he and colleagues had decided what solution he wanted even though they wouldn’t know a solution form a pudding, and he won’t mind me saying that or be worried about my revealing identities.
A little further investigation revealed that he had had numerous visits form a VERY large solutions provider who had convinced him that a particular solution, one of theirs, was just the thing he needed. He had then intimated this to his boss and without knowing it he was now in the process of hiring the guy who would independently, or with a little guidance, arrive at the same conclusion.
I am not going to tell you the precise outcome, because I want you to think about this for yourself. I certainly had to agonise over the decision and I will share with you the parameters I was dealing with.
Constraints:
1. I am a consultant and duty bound to give best advice.
2. This guy is my friend. My arrangement is with him first and foremost.
3. I don’t know everything either.
4. There is nobody in the business who understands technology, there is a CIO but he is not technical.
5. The business strategy is fairly clear apart from some stretch room in terms of exactly how it is implemented and the order of things I.E they don’t know what technology can do for them, or not so they can’t finalise it just yet, hopefully!
Goals:
1. His business needs critically important changes and they are not minor, they will affect everyone and they pretty much must succeed. That means little room for error.
2. A CTO is needed to input confidently the technical aspects and outline the constraints, this is critical to success.
3. He needs to be able to base himself in New York, where skills are even scarcer.
4. However you look at it the work must start now and there are unmissable deadlines
Immediate problems and issues:
1. Three agencies had already been set in motion and had little idea what was really needed to get this job done.
2. The recruiters wee on commission only so they are measuring how much effort they put in are ultimately concerned only with a signed order and a commission, the main goal for them being to get in ahead of the competition.
The CVs don’t match the need and the client doesn’t know what he wants either.
3. I could easily do a great job and end up the villain. There are many ways in which I can lose and a lot fewer in which I can win.
4. Maybe the solution they were being sold in a bag was a good one and any delay or procrastination would serve only to slow them down, confuse them or divert them.
The obvious move is to write a new very clear specification, write brand new adverts and start all over again with the recruitment process assuming we can get the agencies to accept this. Another option one might consider is to pick the best CV from the bunch and hope for the best.
In the end, I found a solution that worked and I am confident that the outcome was a good one, but it may not be what you expected.
Is this a familiar story?