Groundswell: managing management consultants

When business management consultants are called into your company, it's time to think about getting out.



John Riley

Groundswell

When business management consultants are called into your company, it's time to think about getting out. It often means that your management is abdicating some degree of responsibility, bringing in expensive suits to manage problems away.

Beware especially if your board succumbs to the seductive offer of a "strategic partnership" with a big-name consultancy. That can be the kiss of death.

The process is all too familiar: over-confident, inexperienced 22-year-olds sweep in, ask the juniors what's wrong, synthesise the responses with fancy SWOT charts, come up with umpteen obvious initiatives and build in hooks to ensure they're called back.

They charge ridiculous prices - the higher the charge the greater the credibility - and into the bargain they unsettle those junior staff, who can see through it all. By any decent standards this has to be unprofessional practice.

But the charade relies on the inability of most organisations to micro-manage their consultants effectively. For example, not distinguishing between strategic, operational, or implementation consultants will cost them dear.

There are, of course, valid reasons to call in consultants - to draw on a unique, specialist skill, for example, or for carefully thought-out political reasons. But all too often, give them an inch and they'll grab two miles. Best to run a mile first!

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