There is an old TV show called ‘The Wire’, and in it a con artist fleeces a mark.
The mark’s friend tries to wake him up, whereupon the mark insists that the con artist has helped him. The mark’s friend tells him to ‘wake up, he rain-made you!’
“A guy says if you pay him, he can make it rain. You pay him. If and when it rains, he takes the credit. If and when it doesn’t, he finds reasons for you to pay him more.”
This is a neat tv show moment, to be sure, but it is also a pattern that you will find everywhere in the corporate world.
A given product has a few devs, who do the work, a few bosses, who fire devs that suck, and a squad of rainmakers who mess around on their phones. They are called Security Consultants, Architects, Scrum Masters… but what they all have in common is the same thing that an old saying recites about political doctrines.
They can never fail, only be failed. Paying security guys doesn’t stop you from getting hacked. Paying <insert political trend> trainers doesn’t stop you from getting sued. There is, in fact, no world state that can ever indicate that paying one of these folks was a mistake. Either their flag is checked, in which case all is well, or it is not, in which case they need more resources.
Lesswrongers will be familiar with the old concept of ‘make your beliefs pay rent’. It is terrifying how rare basic comprehension of this notion is in the organizations we depend upon. People will accept unfalsifiable axioms as doctrine without the slightest qualm, and then you are gritting your teeth through another round of <insert buzzword> exercises.
They trade upon the credit earned by the few legitimate practitioners of their occupations, who genuinely do consult on security or master scrums. It can be hard to tell the two apart, to grok whether your rainmaker is toting a cloud seeder or thoughts and prayers.
The only thing I’ve ever seen work was essentially formalizing the above. Have everyone give ‘failure statements’ of the form “I will have failed if at time X Y measurable statement is true” and look at the nature of the statements. Productive people’s will be about their contribution, rainmakers will talk about the weather.