Management Consulting Definition
According to Wikipedia, “management
consulting is the practice of helping organisations to improve their
performance, operating primarily through the analysis of existing
organizational problems and the development of plans for improvement.”
Now, whilst we could debate at length what
management consultants actually do. It seems pretty clear that
they will all share the ultimate aim of improving an organization’s performance
one way or another. So, the first half of the Wikipedia definition
is hard to argue with.
Problem with the definition
There is a big problem, however, with the second
half of the definition. Based on discussions with clients, it seems to be a
problem that’s endemic in the management consulting industry. Management
consultants analyse problems and develop plans for improvement, but then what?
All too often they disappear, leaving the client with a thick glossy report and
a big invoice. Whilst the management team may be perfectly capable of
implementing the consultant’s recommendations. They are frequently too busy
looking after ‘business as usual’ issues. This means that the consultant’s
recommendations are never actually implemented, or in a half-baked way.
There is another problem with the definition. Many
of the people doing the analysing and making the recommendations, whilst very
bright, tend to have very little experience of working in industry. Sure, they
know the theory and talk a good game. However, will they really be able to
uncover the true problems in an organization, or will they
just pick up on what management, and the theory books, tell them?
Put it this way: you could study the theory of how
to return a tennis serve for years. Reading articles, watching clips and even
talking to the best tennis coaches. However, when the moment of truth comes and
you are facing down the barrel of a Djokovic serve. The ball will be past you
before you know what has happened – if you haven’t already run a mile! Matthew Syed,
journalist and author, sums up the experience beautifully in his book, Bounce:
the myth of talent and the power of practice (albeit he was facing a
Federer serve). The simple fact was that, despite having the finely honed
reflexes of a former international table tennis player, Syed was unable to get
his racquet to the ball in response to a Federer serve.
10,000 hours experience
Syed uses the experience to bring to life the
theory that you only become an expert in something by engaging in at least
10,000 hours of purposeful practice. It is through these periods of practice
that you begin to learn to read the signals. Then instinctively know what is
going to happen before it actually happens. So, in the tennis context, you read
from the way your opponent is standing, the angle of the ball toss, the shape
of the racquet swing and so on, to such an extent that you anticipate where the
ball is going to go.
This level of experience should never be
underestimated, particularly in a business context. Yes, theory might help you
to identify a problem, but it is only the experience that will help you really understand
the consequences of that problem and the best solution for overcoming it.
The final problem with the definition is that it
makes no mention of the fact that management consultants are remunerated for
their work, often handsomely. This brings us neatly on to the curse of the day
rate. Let’s not beat about the bush here: partners in management consulting
firms are targeted firstly to get their teams fully utilised. Secondly to
improve leverage within their team in order to maintain acceptable levels of
profitability. usually by resourcing the work as cheaply as possible. As a
result, clients rarely see the partner who presented so eloquently to them when
they pitched for the work. Instead, they are presented with an army of junior
and mid-ranking consultants. Most of which have no incentive to do the work
quickly. In the main because the firm is being paid on a day rate basis for
Surely, there must be another way?
At gunnercookeConsulting, we are redefining the way that management
consultancy services are delivered in three very specific ways:
1. Our consultants don’t just advise and recommend.
They also work with their clients to ensure that their recommendations are
implemented. Through effective programme management and through hands-on
delivery of specialist tasks.
2. All of our consultants have a minimum of 10
years of experience in senior positions in industry. Which means that they can
genuinely read whatever is ‘served’ at them and design a practical and workable
3. We have abandoned the day rate in favour of
price certainty and value billing. So, we have the flexibility in our model to
offer fixed prices, gain share arrangements and fee for equity swaps. This
means that all of our consultants have a degree of ‘skin in the game’. This
makes them appropriately incentivised to deliver successful outcomes for their
clients as genuine business partners.
We believe that this is management consulting
redefined. We suggest the following gunnercookeConsulting definition, ”management consulting is the practice
of senior industry experts partnering with organisations to help them improve
their performance, operating through the analysis of existing organizational
problems, the development of plans for improvement and the successful
implementation of those plans.”