What would a consultant do if they had two clients, both of which had the same gap in safe practices, who were each other’s business partner? As consultants, we’re typically bound by confidentiality agreements. If one client is doing something that puts the other at risk, it is difficult to advise the one and still maintain confidentiality with the other. Even if the consultant can refrain from indicating the source of the problem, by remediating, the other client is likely to find out about the other client’s gap, and it may become an issue. One where they will bring up the consultant’s role in the change. This may mean losing one or both clients, depending on their inclination. Yet directly informing either or both has even larger risks.
On the other side of the coin, the consultant, if they have professional morals or some perceived real duty to the clients, cannot let the issue go. They must somehow prepare both clients. A subtle hand can press the issue on both sides without letting either part know that there was a conflict.
“The difference between stupid and intelligent people – and this is true whether or not they are well-educated – is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.” – Neal Stephenson